Angi: Do American League games last longer?

From SABR member Cee Angi at The Platoon Advantage on June 14, 2012:

I didn’t think it was rational to assume that just because there was one batter different in the lineup, that the designated hitter made a big difference in game length than having a pitcher in that slot would, especially when you consider moves like double switches, pitching substitutions, and pinch hitters, which are used frequently in National League games to compensate for the lack of designated hitters.

I took to the Internet to find more data or articles that had been written in regards to game lengths of the American League versus the National League, but I didn’t find much other than articles insisting that the designated hitter is evil, the American League is inferior, and that all of this offensive production was making game so much longer, but I still wasn’t convinced. Since I couldn’t find a neatly packaged version of point I was trying to argue, I did the only thing I could: I decided to create the argument myself. After a couple of emails to Sean Forman of and Bradley Ankrom of Baseball Prospectus, I had all of the game length data I was seeking.


Over 40 seasons with the designated hitter, the evidence suggests that games in the American League are, in fact, longer but with one major caveat—they aren’t that much longer. With an average difference of just 4.95 minutes per game, it would seem that the perception that American League games are just so much longer! And the designated hitter is to blame! seems to be a misconception. Furthermore, there are so many variables that go into determining the length of a game, that it’s difficult to pin that to the designated hitter, when there are many factors that can dictate the length of a game in either league …

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Originally published: June 14, 2012. Last Updated: June 14, 2012.