If you like non-stop action, baseball probably isn’t the sport for you.
At least that’s what a recent study conducted by the Wall Street Journal would suggest. According to their findings, the average three hour baseball game contains well over two and a half hours of killing time in the stands or at home, with just 17 minutes and 58 seconds of game action taking place.
Though that amount of time wouldn't cover a weekly 30-minute sitcom with the commercials taken out, according to a WSJ study from 2010, it’s actually seven minutes longer than the average NFL game. So at least baseball gets the overwhelming nod in that regard.
Here’s a little more on the study, including how the Wall Street Journal came up with their final numbers for baseball.
The WSJ reached this number by taking the stopwatch to three different games and timing everything that happened. We then categorized the parts of the game that could fairly be considered "action" and averaged the results. The almost 18-minute average included balls in play, runner advancement attempts on stolen bases, wild pitches, pitches (balls, strikes, fouls and balls hit into play), trotting batters (on home runs, walks and hit-by-pitches), pickoff throws and even one fake-pickoff throw. This may be generous. If we'd cut the action definition down to just the time when everyone on the field is running around looking for something to do (balls in play and runner advancement attempts), we'd be down to 5:47.
So maybe baseball doesn’t really have an advantage over the NFL.
The next natural question to ask after learning these findings has to be: How does all of that downtime divide up?
The Journal study covers that as well. Of the three games they watched, the time between batters averaged 33 minutes, 39 seconds, which nearly doubles the action time. The time between innings averaged 42 minutes, 41 seconds. And the time between actual pitches averaged 1 hour, 14 minutes and 49 seconds.
If you've ever wondered why baseball tries to make it a goal to speed up the game, this study should put it into perspective. For many of us, the downtime is an opportunity to soak in the atmosphere at the stadium or play armchair manager at home. For the casual fan, tag-along friend, or even beat writers who attend up to 162 games a year, it can seriously drag. Especially if the game isn't competitive. And when the game drags, out comes the dreaded "Wave" or something else that irritates those paying attention.
Obviously there's not a lot baseball can do to significantly cut down on the inactivity, but it's always in their best interests to try. The idea is to get people to want to come back and spend their money again, and eliminating as much of the inertia as they possibly can goes a long way towards winning over those straddling the fence.
Big BLS H/N: Deadspin