The average time of a nine-inning game has been two minutes faster in May than in April, and now has shrunk by 10 minutes per game compared to last season, as players continue to adjust to Major League Baseball's new pace-of-game rules.
Games have averaged 2 hours, 52 minutes in May, compared with 2:54 in April and 3:02 last season, according to MLB senior vice president Chris Marinak, who is overseeing the pace-of-game initiatives.
Because the system has operated so well, there continues to be no current plans to implement the system of fines negotiated with the players' association last winter. Instead, Marinak told ESPN.com that baseball will use rules that were revised late last month, calling for players to be fined only for "repeated" or "excessive" violations.
More than seven weeks into the season, however, no player has been fined for a violation of either the batter's box rule or for failing to be ready to play when the between-innings countdown timer reaches zero, Marinak said. Marinak said MLB will continue to send letters to players, alerting them to violations of those rules for informational purposes, but would only issue fines ranging up to $500 for "repeated" violations that occur "multiple times over multiple games."
Beyond the decrease in time of game, the new rules have had an impact in other ways, as well:
• The average time between balls in play -- which MLB views as the best measure of "pace of action" -- has shrunk for the first time in 10 years. It is down from 3 minutes, 30 seconds last year to 3:18 this season. Last year's rate was up by 20 seconds since 2010 and by 30 seconds over the last decade.
• The average time between pitches also continues to decline. Marinak said that rate is down by about one second per pitch compared to last year. So in a sport in which a typical game now features approximately 300 pitches, that would account for about a five-minute decrease in the average time of game.
• As hitters have adjusted to the new rule requiring them to keep one foot in the batter's box for the duration of an at-bat, MLB has recorded fewer violations per game of that rule in every week of the season, Marinak said. That would appear to be a clear indication that the initial rebellion over that rule, from players such as David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, never has materialized.
• The overall time of game currently stands at 2:53 for the season. If that average holds or declines further, it would be the largest decrease in average game time from one season to the next since 1963, when the average time shrunk from 2 hours, 34 minutes in 1962 to 2:25 the following year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.