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The reason Red Sox / Yankee games are so long

Posted by Andy on September 2, 2011

It ain't rocket science.

Here are the top 5 teams in MLB this year in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance:

Tm Pit/PA ▾
BOS 3.96
NYY 3.93
TBR 3.91
OAK 3.89
PIT 3.89
LgAvg 3.81
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/2/2011.

The full list for all 30 teams is here.

On top of that, guess who the top 2 AL teams are for plate appearances per game? Boston is #1 with 39.49 and New York (A) is #2 at 39.02. Across all of MLB, Cincinnati edges the Yankees slightly at 39.06 and the ML average is 38.16.

So that's more plate appearances per game AND more pitches per plate appearances. You do the math. When the two top teams in these categories get together, it makes for a long game.

Incidentally, the Pirates and Twins, while they see a lot of pitches per PA, are at the bottom of MLB in terms of PA per game. The Twins are way down there at just 37.04. And the Reds get a lot of plate appearances but only see 3.78 pitches per PA, below average.

43 Responses to “The reason Red Sox / Yankee games are so long”

  1. Andy Says:

    A bit of math to put this in perspective...

    When two teams like the Yankees and Red Sox meet, they bring, on average, 5 more batters to the plate than the Twins and a similar opponent would. At nearly 4 pitches per plate appearance, that's an extra 20 pitches right there. Plus, on the other 70 plate appearances they are throwing about 0.2 more pitches per PA, so that's another 14. That's a total of 34 more pitches.

    I'm also willing to bet that there are more pitching changes in NYY-BOS games, if for no other reason than scoring is higher and so more relievers are used. That means more delays for changing the pitcher as well as more mound visits. Pitching changes are huge because now they go to a full commercial break, which wasn't always the case.

    It's not hard to see how all of this can add up to 30-45 extra minutes.

  2. Steve Says:

    Especially when they get men on base who can steal.

  3. Steve Says:

    I don't mind batters seeing alot of pitches.I hate slow working pitchers.Keith Hernandez always talks about how hard it was to play behind slow working pitchers.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I couldn't easily find the average length of a game this season, but let's say it's 2:50 (does anyone know? this is kind of key, I guess). The average pitches per game has been 291. So that's 35 seconds per pitch.

    There have been an average of 318 pitches per Yanks/Sox game this season. 27 more pitches should add up to just under 16 more minutes per game. Their games have lasted an average of 3:31, ~41 minutes more than average. Throw in a couple extra pitching changes, it still doesn't account for the difference.

    The average game is too long because of all the pointless BS which Seligula and the umpires are too weak to do anything about. The Yanks and Sox are just worse about it, especially when they lock horns.

  5. Johnny Twisto Says:

    And actually, I'm being too favorable. The 35 seconds per pitch includes all the commercial breaks. The Yanks and Sox have the same number of breaks (except, of course, for additional mid-inning pitching changes). The additional pitches are occurring between breaks, when the time per pitch is less. I'm too lazy to try figuring the math on that, but I'll just say that each additional pitch should be less than 35 seconds.

  6. Johnny Twisto Says:

    But on the other hand, each pitch with runners on base can legitimately take longer, even if there's no BS going on. Not sure how to control for that.

  7. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Someone smarter than I could write up some regression analysis to calculate the predicted game length based on pitches, baserunners, innings, and then see how long the Yanks-Sox games *should* take. Well, maybe I can try that later through the power of Excel, unless someone else wants to give it a run before then.

  8. BSK Says:


    How did you get those numbers by team? I tried to make that post in the other conversation that got started on the topic, but could only find individual player data. I knew I had read somewhere that the Sox and Yanks were 1-2 in that category, but I couldn't find the reference or the numbers themselves.

  9. Andy Says:

    Come on JT, there's nobody smarter than you (except for Chuck).

    I think the other factor in why the takes take so long are the frequency with which batters step out of the box and pitchers step off the rubber. At one point I was counting in the game last night and in a stretch of 6 batters, there were 10 step-outs by the batter. That's essentially a full reset and like 10 extra pitches right there.

  10. Johnny Twisto Says:

    BSK, it's in the league batting pages:

  11. Steve Says:

    9 Yes,I was blaming pitchers (and they usually are mostly to blame),but there are some hitters who slow the game down.Nomar Garciaparra was the worst I can remember.He adjusted his gloves between every pitch.

  12. Cameron Says:

    The Average length of a Red Sox-Yankees game has been 3 hours 13 minutes this season. The average game this year has taken 2 hours 51 minutes. 22 minutes longer on average.

  13. Cameron Says:

    Sorry I was wrong, JT is right the average length of a Red Sox-Yankees game has been 3 hours 31 minutes, a 40 minute difference.

  14. Spindlebrook Says:

    Doesn't stopping the game in the 7th inning for "God Bless America" add a minute or two to that total every Yankees home game?

    Bear in mind I am NOT trying to start an argument whether the Yankees should or shouldn't do that. Let's not go there...

  15. oneblankspace Says:

    Did you look at mid-inning pitching changes with your analysis? (To this, I would add pitching changes after warmups but before the first batter.)

  16. Jim Dunne Says:


    People always say this about Nomar, including commentators, and I've always disagreed. He had his little OCD routine between pitches, but he was never stepping out of the batters box and walking around. He always did his routine immediately after the pitch and then stepped back in. His between-pitch routine was more identifiable than most players, but it was definitely not longer.

    He also saw a very low number of pitches, on average, so even if he was taking up more time for each pitch (which he wasn't) it still wouldn't have had a major effect.

  17. Andy Says:

    Jim, I agree about Nomar. He was OCD for sure, and I think people have confused in their memories that with all the stepping in and out that happens today. Nomar was often fidgeting even as the pitch delivery already started.

  18. Steve Says:

    16 17 I guess it just made his Abs seem longer.

  19. Timothy P Says:

    I don't usually weigh in on Red Sox/Yankee debates because it doesn't fall into my area of expertise (Wahoo, cats, Zambrano are a few of many) ,but it seems to me the length of games could be cut by about 8 minutes in the AL if they got rid of the DH.

  20. Jbird Says:

    I was just taking a gander at the leaderboards and then did some checking: no team has ever had 4 players with 40 doubles in a season. With a little two-bagger proclivity this September from Melky and Billy Butler, (who've played nearly every single game this year), the young Royals should give us a treat that's never been seen before.

  21. Johnny Twisto Says:

    OK, I don't have the computer or programming knowledge to know how to parse the database to collect all the data I want. I did this by hand, collecting information from three days of games in 2011. My guess is that this isn't a sufficient sample size, but it's not a quick process. I collected: half-innings played, runs scored, hits, walks, pitches thrown, stolen base attempts, and mid-inning pitching changes.

    I was trying to identify the events measured in a boxscore which would add time to a game. In retrospect, perhaps I should have counted total plate appearances. And I was thinking of walks as a proxy for deep counts, but perhaps that's meaningless since I already have the actual pitches thrown. Maybe I should just add hits and walks together as an approximation for baserunners? I used stolen base attempts as a proxy for "speed slowing the game down."

    Anyway, then I ran a regression analysis against the time of game. I don't know anything about statistics, so I don't really understand what all the outputs I'm given mean. But I do have the formula I can now apply to any game to estimate how long it "should" have taken, based on the stats listed above.

    Last night's Yankee/Sox game should have lasted 3:45. So yes, even though it was a 4-2 nine-inning game, all the pitches and baserunners destined it to be a long game no matter who was involved (at least, at the pace of 2011 games). In actuality, it lasted 4:21. I'm happy to blame all that excess on David Ortiz strolling around after called strikes and Saltalamacchia delivering every sign by telegram.


  22. CHARLES Says:

    Sept.1, 2011 Yankees 4 Red Sox 2 in a 9 inning 4 hour 21 minute game, game starts at 710 PM

    83 batters 381 pitches 20 strikeouts 12 walks 17 hits 2 HBP 6 runs? with 1 pick-off and a double play that gives you 23 runners left on base.
    Starting pitchers give up 1 and 2 runs, but no quality starts because they only lasted 5 and 5.1 innings. Lester throws 114 pitches in 5 innings and leaves with a 2-1 lead.
    Aceves comes in for top of the 6th inning, loads the bases, facing 6 batters without giving a run.
    Burnett leaves in the bottom of the sixth with one out, runners on 1st and 2nd. Logan and Wade come in to end the inning facing 1 batter each.

    Top of the 7th:
    Aceves gets 1 out, walks Andruw Jones on 14 pitches (4th PA, 36 pitches) who gets lifted for a pinch runner missing out on a 5th PA. Then Aceves hits Montero. Bard comes in and gives up a 2 run double to Martin, batting 8, now NY is ahead 3-2, Aceves will get the loss for a 23-3 career record and Corey Wade (3-0 this year) gets the win for his 1 batter 4 pitch performance with runners on 1st and 2nd.

    Rivera has a 6 batter 9th, loading the bases with no runs.
    No runners reached base only twice.

    I like this one : Gardner Caught Stealing (PO) 2B (P-1B-SS-1B-2B).

    Boston's 6 through 9 hitters go a combined 0 for 15 with 1 walk. That's 3 times they made 4 outs in a row. Martin, the Yankees #8 hitter, gets 1 run, 2 hits, 2 RBIs. Boston's #7 hitter, Lowrie, gets a 7 pitch full count walk to set up Reddick and Saltalamacchia for the 1st and 2nd outs in the 9th inning before Boston loaded the bases.
    Adrian Gonzalez made the last out on a 1-2 pitch - strikeout looking with the bases loaded.

    Just a bizarre game and how did Aceves get credit for a hold and a loss?

    Also, can someone explain to me why the Yankees can't beat Boston at Yankee Stadium?
    From 1991 to 2007 I lived in NJ and rooted for the Yankees, then I moved to Boston, now I'm in Philly. Who should I root for?

  23. Johnny Twisto Says:

    how did Aceves get credit for a hold and a loss?

    He left with the save situation intact (still had the lead), but his bequeathed runners (which captured the lead) scored after he left, so they get fully charged to him. There have been 9 other games this season in which a reliever got a hold and a loss.

    Most hold/losses in MLB history: Gene Garber, 5.

  24. Ebessan Says:

    "From 1991 to 2007 I lived in NJ and rooted for the Yankees, then I moved to Boston, now I'm in Philly. Who should I root for?"

    I'm a Phillies fan.

    Stay with the Yankees.

  25. CHARLES Says:

    @23 Thanks. He gets the hold because he passed his save opportunity to another pitcher.

    If you use the Yankee-Red Sox numbers provided above at post #4
    318 pitches in 211 minute you get 4:12 for a 381 pitch game. This game was 4:21

  26. CHARLES Says:

    @25 My kids are die-hard Boston fans. I'll be in big trouble if they find out.

  27. psychump Says:

    More commercials.

  28. mccombe35 Says:



    Combined with the 2 teams with the most players who think they are bigger than the game. The game will wait for them in between pitches. Just look at their pay.

  29. Charles Says:

    I plotted time vs pitches to a straight line. The graph looks linear in this range. The slope of 0.705 minutes/pitch A little correction of -13 minutes. Worst fit 21 minutes for 266 pitches.
    Pitches X 0.705 - 12.9
    The average is 318 pitches, 211 minutes and the fitted value is 211
    The league average of 291 pitches, 171 minutes would miss this line by 21 minutes.

    Pitches Time Fitted Time
    266 196 175
    283 191 187
    286 178 189
    291 186 192
    306 204 203
    310 206 206
    311 215 206
    320 205 213
    323 203 215
    323 206 215
    326 206 217
    339 221 226
    349 239 233
    357 255 239
    381 261 256

  30. Rich Says:

    It's been mentioned elsewhere (possibly here too) but Josh Beckett is one of the slowest pitchers in the game. He takes FOREVER in between pitches even with no one on base.

  31. Charles Says:

    go to google
    type in
    "yankees" "red sox" "long games"

  32. Carl Says:

    Beckett has been the starting pitcher in 3 of the 4 shortest Sox/Yankee games this year, including the only one that was sub 3 hours.

    Another factor is nationally televised games having longer commercial breaks and the Sox/Yankees are ALWAYS on national TV.

  33. joe baseball Says:

    longer games = more baseball for your money

  34. John Autin Says:

    Waiting is not equal to baseball.

  35. Charles Says:

    Beckett's NYY game times are not unusual for him. His 6 wins vs other teams when he pitches 6-8 innings ranged from 182 to 202 minutes. The Yankee games were 206, 191 for 9 inning away games and 188, 196 for 8.5 inning home game. All his Yankee games were victories with 6-8 innings pitched.

  36. Phil Gaskill Says:

    @1: Okay, I did the math, like you suggest in your second paragraph.

    39 PA (let's round off here) x 3.96 pitches per PA = 154 pitches per team in a Sox/Yanks game.

    38 PA x 3.81 pitches per PA = 145 pitches per team in a league-average game.

    Difference is all of 9 pitches. If a pitch, as estimated in this thread, takes 35 seconds, we're talking about 315 seconds, which is 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

    Maybe my rounding (in both directions, mind you) could conceivably have added up to an error of one pitch. Doesn't change anything.

  37. Andy Says:

    Phil, your starting numbers are incorrect.

  38. Phil Gaskill Says:

    Andy, I do see that I made one big mistake: I forgot to multiply my numbers per team x 2 since there's 2 teams in most games. 😉

    But aside from that, please tell me what I missed.

  39. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I made a couple little changes to my regression formula. I combined hits and walks into one category, to approximate baserunners, and I added plate appearances. Interestingly, I notice that plate appearances actually has a negative correlation with the time of game. Apparently (at least based on the 44 games I analyzed), if the number of pitches and baserunners and pitching changes, etc, stay the same, more PA would imply a slightly *shorter* game. Not sure if that's a result of small sample of game data. Or it could be something like tough at bats slowing pitchers down. I tried removing PA entirely, but the fit wasn't quite as good, so I've left it in.

    Anyway, with the New and Improved! formula, that Yanks/Sox game should have lasted 3:46, basically the same as I found before, and 35 minutes fewer than it really did.

    I was going to try seeing if the average game this year ended up with an average time through my formula, but I have no idea how to calculate the average mid-inning pitching changes. Anyway, if anyone has a particular game they want to know how long it "should" have lasted, let me know.

  40. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I looked at a Mark Buehrle game from July 9 when he pitched 8 innings. It was predicted to last 2:38. It lasted...2:36. What the hell Buehrle? You're supposed to skew the formula.

  41. Jeff Says:

    I don't need numbers to tell me that batters need to keep their ass in the batter's box between pitches

  42. Richard Chester Says:


    I think Chuck Knoblauch was the worst of all. Stepped out of the box after each pitch, adjusted his gloves and did a few other things.

  43. jiffy Says:

    @42, Brewer games are interminable often because Fielder and Braun both step out and fix their batting gloves after every pitch.