Opening day games weren't any shorter despite focus on pace of play

Opening day 2018 is in the books, and it wasn’t just the first game of the year — it was the first time the players (and umpires) were dealing with the new mound visit limit. That’s the new pace of play rule that commissioner Rob Manfred decided to institute for the 2018 season, electing to hold off on implementing a pitch clock so the players could have the opportunity to reduce game times on their own.

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So after one day and 13 games (two were postponed due to rain), how did the players do? The numbers are in, and the news isn’t great. The average time for Thursday’s games was three hours and 15 minutes, which is an increase of seven minutes over 2017’s opening day average of three hours and eight minutes.

Looking at 2018’s opening day average doesn’t get better when you compare it to other recent years. The average for 2016’s opening day games was the same as 2017, at three hours and eight minutes. But buckle in for 2015’s opening day average: two hours and 49 minutes. 2018’s average opening day game time was 26 (!?!?) minutes longer than 2015.

Take a look around the league on Opening Day: 

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A look around MLB Opening Day 2018
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A look around MLB Opening Day 2018
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29: The logo is shown on the bases before the Opening Day game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays on March 29, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox inspects a fire in the stadium before the Opening Day game against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 29, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Fans hold signs prior to the start of the game between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day at Citi Field on March 29, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29: Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs wears a MSDStrong shirt during warmups in honor of Stoneman Douglas High School before Opening Day against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on March 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29: Miami Marlins warm up before Opening Day between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park on March 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Kevin Plawecki #26 of the New York Mets bat is seen prior to the start of the Opening Day game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on March 29, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29: The logo is shown on the bases before the Opening Day game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays on March 29, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: The tarp covers the field prior to the start of the Opening Day game between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on March 29, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MARCH 29: Fans cheer after the playing of the National Anthem before the Opening Day baseball game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on March 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29: Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora runs the gauntlet during pre-game introductions. The Boston Red Sox visit the Tampa Bay Rays for the opening day of the 2018 MLB baseball season at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL on March 29, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Amed Rosario #1 of the New York Mets celebrates after hitting a two-run single in the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day at Citi Field on March 29, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 29: Fans enter the stadium prior to the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium on March 29, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ (8) runs the bases after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Miami Marlins during their 2018 Opening Day baseball game on Thursday, March 29, 2018 Little Havana, Fla. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 29: A father and his daughter walk through the stands toward the field as they arrive early on Opening Day ahead of the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on March 29, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Opening day is the smallest of small sample sizes. A single MLB season consists of 2,430 games, and on Thursday we saw just 13. But it’s not the greatest sign that the average game time on opening day 2018 was seven minutes longer than 2017 and 2016, and 26 minutes longer than 2015. That’s right in line with how average game time has been trending overall — the average MLB game increased by four minutes in 2016 and five minutes in 2017.

Game length depends on a lot of things. Weather. Temperature. The style of the pitcher, and the style of the batter. (Everyone has seen an at-bat with a bunch of fouls and feels like it lasts forever.) If the pitcher struggles, there will be more batters, and that leads to a longer game. But Rob Manfred (and the commissioner’s office) has made it clear that he doesn’t care about the reasons. He just wants shorter games, the end. And unless the players figure out how to make that happen, there will definitely be a pitch clock in their future.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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