If you were looking to this October’s postseason tournament for compelling and interesting baseball, you have likely been disappointed.
Through Tuesday, there have been 18 games played. Exactly two of them have been decided by one run — the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Orioles in Game 1 of their division series, and the Braves’ 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Phillies in Game 2 of their series. That’s the only one that had any real excitement, the final play of the game [VIDEO].
Beyond that, five of the 18 games have been blowouts, based on baseball-reference’s definition of a blowout (a win by five or more runs). That’s likely had many who aren’t fans of the teams involved turning the games off early.
All four of the wild card series were sweeps, so there wasn’t any drama involved in any of those, either. The Marlins (outscored 11-2) and Rays (outscored 11-1) went down particularly meekly.
The other thing I wanted to mention in connection with this year’s postseason is the length of some of the games. This year’s regular season produced an average game length of 2:39:49, baseball’s quickest average in nearly 40 years (since 1985).
None of the 18 games so far in this year’s postseason have gone to extra innings, so we have a set of nine-inning games to analyze. Seven of them were won by the home team without batting in the bottom of the ninth, nearly half of that set.
Of the 18 games, just two ran the regular-season average or shorter — the Rangers’ 7-1 win that clinched their wild card series over the Rays (2:39) and the Phillies’ 7-1 win that gave them the wild card series win over the Marlins (2:30).
The overall average for the 18 games is 3:00:20, which is about 21 minutes longer than the regular-season average for 2023. The average for the 11 games that had a bottom of the ninth is 3:07:45; the seven games that didn’t have a bottom of the ninth averaged 2:48:42, better, but still longer than the regular-season average.
A good deal of this is due to TV. In the postseason, commercial breaks run 2:55 instead of the 2:15 for a regular-season game. The 40 seconds of extra length per half-inning add up to 11 minutes’ worth of extra time, which accounts for about half of the added game length. I would guess that pitchers are using a bit more of the pitch timer in the postseason, and more batters are using the one batter timeout they get per plate appearance, accounting for most of the rest.
It also didn’t help that the Orioles walked 11 batters in Game 2 of their division series against the Rangers, and there were 363 pitches thrown in that game, about 100 more than the usual average for a nine-inning game.
But overall this is a significant improvement over recent postseasons. Here’s a similar article I wrote in 2021 after a similar number of postseason games (17, in that case). Those 17 games — I left out one 13-inning game — ran 3:40, a full 40 minutes longer than this year’s average for 18 games.
So in all, even though this year’s postseason games are running longer than this year’s regular-season games, on average, they’re still better-paced than previous years’ postseason contests. That’s a good thing for baseball, and now let’s hope the rest of this year’s postseason brings us more competitive and exciting games.