A standard baseball game lasts 9 innings, but if the teams are tied after the 9th inning, the game goes into extra innings. The game will continue into extras until the tie is broken. We will help determine how long a baseball game can last in total time.
Unlike most other major league sports in the United States, baseball does not have a time clock or set time limit.
The longest game in baseball history lasted 33 innings for a total of 8 hours and 25 minutes of play.
How Long Does a Major League Baseball Game Last?
To properly analyze how long an MLB game lasts, let’s first look at some of the factors which might end a baseball game early:
- Inclement weather can cut a baseball game short. It is possible for a game to end after just five innings if there is extreme weather.
- If the home team is ahead at the top half of the ninth inning, the game will end at 8.5 innings. The game can also be called at 4.5 innings if the home team is ahead and there is rain or harsh weather.
- In Major League Baseball, a game is not considered a regulation game until the visiting team has made 15 outs or after five innings and the home team is leading or once the home team makes 15 outs regardless of the score.
- If an official game is stopped before meeting the regulation game requirements, the game does not count and will usually be postponed to a later date.
Now, let’s look at some of the factors which will contribute to a longer game:
- As discussed earlier, extra innings occur when the game is tied after the ninth inning. Each additional inning will add to the total time of the game.
- Televised games have certain requirements and will often pause play and take breaks resulting in a longer playing time.
- Playoff games and team rivalries often last longer than the average baseball game.
- Replay challenges and pitching changes will cause extended pauses in play.
- Each pitcher pitches differently and the time between pitches can vary significantly.
- Additionally, lots of runners on bases usually causes pitchers to pitch slower, resulting in a longer game.
Time of an Average MLB Game
To get an average MLB game time, we evaluated each game on a random day; in this case, Sunday, June 23, 2019.
There were 15 MLB games played on June 23, 2019:
- TOR vs BOS – Game Time: 3:04
- MIA vs PHI – Game Time: 2:59
- DET vs CLE – Game Time: 3:33
- SD vs PIT – Game Time: 4:58
- ATL vs WSH – Game Time: 3:09
- HOU vs NYY – Game Time: 2:48
- CIN vs MIL – Game Time: 2:50
- MIN vs KC – Game Time: 3:09
- NYM vs CHC – Game Time: 2:49
- CWS vs TEX – Game Time: 3:07
- TB vs OAK – Game Time: 2:58
- COL vs LAD – Game Time: 3:10
- BAL vs SEA – Game Time: 3:07
- SF vs ARI – Game Time: 3:13
- LAA vs STL – Game Time: 3:42
Taking each game played on June 23, 2019, and averaging the playing time resulted in 3 hours and 14 minutes.
We checked two other dates to confirm the average:
On Sunday, June 30, 2019, the average game time was 3 hours and 20 minutes. On Saturday, September 21, 2019, the average game time was 3 hours and 27 minutes.
After evaluating these dates, you can plan for a minimum of three hours for an average baseball game.
If, however, you find yourself going to a playoff game, televised game, or a rivalry game you might want to allow extra time since these games tend to be longer.
MLB Officials Attempt to Speed Up Games
MLB officials do not want baseball to be played at a leisurely pace and are constantly trying to speed things up.
Major league baseball is always changing, and new rules are always being implemented. Recently there has been an ongoing discussion about the length of baseball games and ways to make the game faster.
Rules Implemented by Major League Baseball
- During the early 2000s, the MLB stopped allowing hitters to step out of the box without a valid reason.
- A pitch clock is being tested in the minor leagues which limits pitches to 20 seconds while the bases are empty.
- A timer tracks the time between innings, for coach/catcher visits to the mound, and the time between batters.
The 3-hour baseball game average time does not apply to all baseball leagues. Other leagues have their own rules that will affect the length of the baseball game.
How Long Does a Minor League Baseball Game Last?
Like MLB games, both AAA and AA baseball games have nine innings. The minor leagues have implemented a pitch clock of 20 seconds that could one day make a debut in the majors.
In the minors, doubleheaders are shortened to seven innings instead of nine.
How Long Does a College Baseball Game Last?
College baseball also plays for at least nine innings. However, under certain circumstances, doubleheaders can be reduced to seven innings.
Additionally, the mercy rule may shorten the time of a college baseball game. The mercy rule takes effect if one team is up by at least 10 runs after seven innings, or the fifth inning in a seven-inning game.
How Long Do Amateur Baseball Games Last?
High school baseball games last seven innings. The mercy rule also applies to high school baseball games and the game will end early if a team is up by at least 10 runs after four innings.
While a baseball game could, in theory, go on indefinitely, with many examples of games lasting more than 20 innings, you can plan for three hours at the ballpark for a Major League Baseball game.
Learn more about baseball gameplay rules on our baseball FAQs page.