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Once upon a time, baseball was my favorite thing in the world. Though that's not so true any more, I still count myself a Mets fan and consider trips to the ballpark to be among my most preferred activities on a spring or summer day. (I've been to around 25 of the current parks...PNC Park is #1!) Apart from the in person experience then, I also am interested in current efforts to speed of the pace of play (don't ask). This section then will likely be a mix of these topics plus some old stuff as I just can't resist.

The Fastest Baseball Game in MLB History

Today, general consensus considers the 51-minute, September 28, 1919 contest between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants to be the quickest in major league history, with the Giants winning 6-1. Just how impressive is that figure? The game averaged an out every minute and each at bat (69 total) averaged less than 45 seconds apiece, including the time it took to swap places in between innings. By any measure, the game flew. And perhaps most surprisingly, it wasn’t entirely devoid of offense either, making it all the more extraordinary a feat.

In a New York Times recap the next day, a sportswriter remarked on the game’s fever pace but acknowledged little effort actually went into speeding things along:

There was no unusual effort yesterday to make a speed record until the Phils’ half of the ninth. At that time it became apparent to the players that they could do something unusual, and for a half inning they hustled. Even with two out in this closing inning Luderus poked a hit to centre field, and he did not attempt to walk into any putout. Dave Bancroft did. He took a swing at a ball, which rolled to Doyle, and the game was over. Bancroft’s effort with two down in the ninth was the only part of the game in which real effort was lacking.

[Here’s the full New York Times article.]

When compared to the frequently 3 hour plus affairs of modern day, 51 minutes seems near impossible. A look at the game’s box score (below) helps us to make better sense of how it happened. Perhaps most notable: only 3 strikeouts and 3 walks combined between the two teams. In 2016, MLB teams averaged 3.1 BBs and 8.1 Ks per game; multiply that by two to get an idea of how many at bats fail to put the ball in play. In this 1919 game, only 6 of 69 batters failed to do so.

Note: I realize labeling anything the definitive this or that only invites debate; on this matter, however, I would happily be proven wrong if presented with evidence to the contrary!

Length of 2016 MLB Games by Home Plate Umpire

This is the first in what will be a series of posts on the topic of Major League Baseball’s ‘pace of play’ initiative. The data used to generate these posts comes from publicly accessible Gameday data files at Keep an eye out for posts to come!

I recently came across this 2006 ESPN article that chronicles a week in the life of a major league umpire. To my surprise, the piece mentions MLB’s efforts to police the pace of the game even back in 2006 by gauging umpires and their ability to move the game along (or not). Here’s a relevant extract that discusses an umpire’s “POG stat”:

The POG [pace of game] stat is derived from a formula that includes length of game, number of pitches, pitching changes, runs and innings. “Pace of game is harder to control,” Marsh says. “But if your POG average is consistently high in relation to the other crews, they let you know it.” He asks if any of the other guys saw the previous night’s Yankee game. “Posada went to the mound three times in an inning,” he says. Everyone shakes his head. Not good for that crew’s POG.

“You pull for the other crews to have short games,” Hernandez says. “Not just for their POG stats, but because you know how tired they are. When you’re watching a game and it goes into extra innings, you say a little umpire prayer for it to be done soon.”

Admittedly, I don’t know the POG formula referenced, though that won’t stop me from trying to create one of my own. In the interim, here’s a listing of the umps with the best and worst average game times when they’re behind the plate from 2016. For the purposes of making things somewhat reasonable, I have restricted the table to only those regular season games that ended after 9 innings. I realize this is rather rudimentary and doesn’t take into account a whole host of other factors, but I thought it might be interesting to see any noticeable differences amongst the umpires. In coming weeks, I’ll update with more detail and hopefully provide breakdowns for individual crews. Keep Reading

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