I was absent-mindedly keeping track of the Seattle and Boston doubleheader today when I decided that it felt to me that the game was progressing quickly. The kernel of a thought gave rise to me pondering other doubleheaders that I had watched and I had a fuzzy recollection of those also moving quickly as well. Thus, a hypothesis was born. Knowing that they have to play two games in one day, do players attempt to play at a quicker pace?

Far be it for me simply to toss out a hypothesis without taking steps to try to prove it. After all, I wouldnâ€™t want to be like Damien Cox. Lucky for me â€”and for all of usâ€” we live in a reality where Retrosheet exists and is free and totally awesome.

Testing the theory is a bit more complicated than simply comparing the average game duration for doubleheaders against single game days. Thereâ€™s historical context that needs to be applied. Games take longer to complete now than they used to and there used to be more doubleheaders. Therefore taking the average doubleheader duration would result in a skew toward earlier seasons, which had smaller durations.

To get around that, I broke up each season into a separate entry for normal games and doubleheader games and compared them down the line. Over the years 1952 through 2009, the average doubleheader game took 99.8% as long to finish as a normal game. Technically, they do appear to take a shorter amount of time to compete but the margin is so incredibly small and the sample size on doubleheader games small enough that I feel this is not a statistically large enough difference to prove the hypothesis.

It might be tempting to think that nothing was learned, but thatâ€™s not true. Proving a theory wrong â€”or at least showing it currently impossible to prove correctâ€” is still added information. Besides, I made this cool line chart!

I find it interesting that game times were fairly stable from 1952 (147 minutes) through 1976 (149 minutes) and from 1991 (174 minutes) to present day (175 minutes). That was one steep and steady climb.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

### 16 Responses to “Doubleheader Duration”

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1. The A Team says:

So what I’m seeing in that chart is that free agency made games longer…

Correlation!

(does not equal causation)

• Padman Jones says:

And look at those spikes in the PED era! We all knew that steroids were the bane of all moral existence but taking our games over 3 hours? Shame.

• DavidCEisen says:

Baseball game length is positively correlated with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

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2. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

About when did baseball hit the point when every game was televised?

• Mitch says:

Sure looks like it was the 1980s!

3. Souldrummer says:

Larussa!

• NEPP says:

He’s History’s Greatest Monster!!!

4. CJE says:

Did you use both games of the double header or just the first game? I would be curious if that made a difference.

• disco burritos says:

how about just first vs. second game?

• The displayed data is both games. I initially separated out the first and second games but there was no meaningful difference between the two and three lines of data was more confusing.

5. joeyogi says:

i was at game 1 at fenway yesterday ,located in a good spot to see the K zone and from pitch 1,it seemed obvious that the strike zone was going to be big that afternoon(esp high and low strikes).

what seemed to happen in about the middle of the game,when no offense was forthcoming,was the the zone was constant for strikes one and two,but at the 2-strike count,the strike zone shrank enough to give the hitters a chance.

joe west was on the field and he and his boys wanted no part of the rain,mist,and cold

6. Mike says:

You also forgot that this Seattle/Boston series had the worst Umpiring crew in baseball with Rob Drake, “Cowboy” Joe West Angel Hernandez and some rookie. They were expanding the strike zone a ton the entire series. Of course, any statistics about game time and “Cowboy” Joe West are suspect, because of his comments earlier in the season, expanding the strike zone speeds up games, which he wants.

7. cutchisaboss says:

I just wish that MLB scheduled doubleheaders like they did in the old days. True fans are able to spend an entire day at the ballpark and they can plan for it.

8. bmt24 says:

I’d be interested to see if some combination of factors such as the number of baserunners, the number of pitching changes within an inning and of course extra innings could be used to make accurate predictions of game length and then comparing doubleheaders to non-doubleheaders. I feel like there are so few doubleheaders these days that any single outlier among them could really throw off the average.