29 April 2010

Game Time Part I: Introduction

It's been a few weeks since the Joe West kerfuffle blew through the sports media, but as far as I'm concerned the whole episode raised some questions that have yet to be answered.

It's no secret that Yanks-Sox games seem to run especially long, but why? And what exactly is it that makes some games longer than others? In a sport where everyone complains about game pace nowadays, these are important questions. I think I have some of the answers.

Speculation poured in from around the web as to why the greatest rivalry in baseball seems to take an inordinate amount of time to complete. Of course, Joe West complained about the time players take in between pitches and at bats, plus a preponderance of mound visits.

Joe Posnanski offers a rival/parallel explanation: Yanks-Sox matchups feature more offense than other matchups, which means longer innings, more pitching changes, and more visits to the mound. Additionally, Jason at It's All About the Money blamed Joe West for not calling strikes in the zone (more walks = longer at bats, more offense = longer innings, more pitching changes, mound visits = longer games). These are all worthy hypotheses, some easier to test than others.

I'm taking a whack at it here at Rational Pastime. The next few posts will present the research I've performed regarding time of game during the 2009 season and postseason. I shall empirically demonstrate the importance of several factors, including the obvious (innings, pitches thrown, pitcher changes, runs scored, run differentials), to the slightly less obvious (wins at home, regular season vs. playoffs, weekend vs. weekday), to the rather obscure (attendance to capacity).

Almost all the data was obtained using Baseball-Reference's voluminous resources (with the exception of attendance data, which I obtained from ESPN and Ballparks by Munsey and Supps).

Game Time Series
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Response to Joe West
Part III: What Makes Long Games Long?
Part IV: Head-to-Head Matchups

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