The National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2000 found that the average attention span for an adult was 12 seconds. Since 2000, society has seen the rise of iPhones and numerous social media platforms that have helped the current generation distract itself as much as possible.
The result? The average attention span in 2013 has been reduced by 33 percent to eight seconds.
In light of that, it seems that it would be difficult for Major League Baseball to continue to draw viewers to games, which last year averaged just a shade over three hours.
The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox were one of the worst offenders, averaging over three hours, 15 minutes per game. Subsequently, Commissioner Bud Selig appointed the consistently plodding Red Sox to form a committee of seven teams to study the slow pace of games and recommend change that could speed things up.
“This is one of the most critical issues facing baseball as we move forward into the next three, five, seven years,” Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy said.
The true issue with baseball games is not the length, but the pace. The average NBA game over the last five years has been about three hours , yet the complaints are far fewer, largely because of the game’s much quicker pace.
In two minutes of NBA game time, fans see from four to 10 points scored. In two minutes of a professional baseball, game fans might see anywhere from four to 10 stepping out of the batter’s box from the hitter.
Baseball wasn’t always like this. In 1964, the ball was put in play every 2 1/2 minutes. Today that number has crept 3 1/2 minutes.
So what gives? The committee led by the Red Sox can pore over data, but its findings will be obvious to anyone who has ever watched a baseball game. Whether it’s batters fussing with their gloves or pitchers wiping their face six times before even thinking about throwing a pitch, baseball has become too ritualistic.
If Selig and his league truly want to speed up the game, they would be smart to limit the amount of time that a batter or pitcher can take in between pitching. FanGraphs found that the average amount of time in between pitches is about 21.5 seconds, with the fastest pitchers taking about 16 seconds and the slowest taking over 25 seconds. Would trimming the time between pitches so that the average was closer to 17 seconds be so detrimental to pitchers and batters alike?