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WSJ study: 90 percent of baseball spent doing nothing

Yes, baseball games often last between three and four hours (or more than five, as in the case of some that go extra innings), but how much action actually happens during that time?

The Wall Street Journal calculates that an average of 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action occurs during a baseball game. That amount of time is roughly equivalent to a TED talk or the missing section of the Watergate tapes, the news outlet says.

The WSJ took stopwatches to three different MLB games, including a low-scoring affair and a hitter-friendly outing.

The almost 18-minute average included balls in play, runner advancement attempts on stolen bases, wild pitches, pitches (balls, strikes, fouls and balls hit into play), trotting batters (on home runs, walks and hit-by-pitches), pickoff throws and even one fake-pickoff throw. This may be generous. If we’d cut the action definition down to just the time when everyone on the field is running around looking for something to do (balls in play and runner advancement attempts), we’d be down to 5:47.

In all fairness, as paltry as the amount of action seems in baseball, it still tops football games. A 2010 WSJ study found that the average amount of action in a football contest is roughly 11 minutes.

Baseball fans can boast of a whole seven extra minutes of action in the games they watch. Football fans: Hang your heads low.

So where does all the time go during a baseball game?

The news outlet attributed more than 33 minutes to “time between batters.”

This is knocking the weighted donut off the bat, announcing the batter, the walk-up song, cleaning the cleats, maybe some form of the old Rosanne spitting and crotch-grabbing routine. On TV, replays, players involved in the last play and crowd shots are often shown here. The time between batters concludes when the pitcher begins throwing to the new batter.

The WSJ also found more than 42 minutes was spent on time between innings, but that paled in comparison to time between pitches, which took up an average of nearly an hour and 15 minutes in the games studied.

If baseball fans can pat themselves on the back for anything revealed after this study, it’s that they must have a lot of patience for big moments to happen in a game, and a high tolerance for the extended moments where nothing does.

Click here to read more about the study.