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Sunday, December 29, 2013
Kernels: Hurry up and wait

By Doug Kern

If you're like most baseball fans, you have at least one countdown clock in your head. And not the one to Tuesday night's ball drop.

Forty-four days until pitchers and catchers.
Ninety-one days until Opening Day.
(X) days until my trip to (insert exotic baseball locale).

You pass the winter daydreaming of sunshine, the perfectly manicured field and the crack of the bat. So while you're waiting for that, it seemed a good time to talk about how much waiting we do during the season.

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Did it feel like there was a lot of "down time" during the World Series?

After the first two innings of Game 1 alternated long and short, Stats & Info set about timing each half-inning, from first pitch to final out. Those times ranged from a five-pitch frame in 1:41 all the way to 24:37.

Overall, the Boston Red Sox spent an extra 48 minutes batting (7 hours, 21 minutes to the St. Louis Cardinals' 6:33), mostly because they saw 76 more pitches. Both teams averaged 30 seconds per pitch when rounded.

Those extended commercial breaks between innings accounted for more than six hours of the Series' 19:57 total. And that doesn't include the waits during mid-inning pitching changes. Game 5, at 2:52, was the shortest World Series game played with National League rules in 12 years.

ESPN.com columnist Jerry Crasnick has more on postseason games getting longer.

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But if you like waiting around, nothing beats a rain delay. We tracked more than 160 hours of them throughout the season.

Cleveland Indians fans haven't just been waiting a while for a title, they waited more than 26 hours just to see their team play this season -- seven more than any other team (see chart). Nearly five of that came from three separate delays in their May 31 game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The longest single delay came one night earlier when the same weather system hit St. Louis. The Cardinals and Kansas City Royals were six outs away from finishing the game when it rained in the top of the ninth.

Problem: The Royals had just scored to take the lead. If the Cardinals didn't bat, the score would revert back to the prior inning. So they waited. And waited. For 4½ hours.

The game finally resumed at 3:02 a.m. and ended 12 minutes later. It was the latest known finish to a game ever played in St. Louis, 13 minutes later than Jack Clark's walk-off to end a doubleheader on July 7, 1987.

The most rained-on fans were those at Turner Field, who spent 12:50 over 11 games waiting. If you planned your trip to Atlanta around the Braves' homestand from Aug. 9-18, you have our sympathies. Four of those nine games started late and another was delayed after one inning.

The only team to not have a single rain delay this season was the Seattle Mariners -- but they didn't escape entirely. They got "stung" by a 23-minute bee delay in Anaheim. We also had a 70-minute fog delay; two light-failure delays (including one in the American League Championship Series); and five games postponed by snow -- one of them in Kansas City … in May!

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And if it felt like games were generally longer this season, you're right. The average game in 2013 lasted more than 3:04, helped by a major-league-record 243 extra-inning games. Just the nine-inning contests still averaged 2:59, up three minutes from 2012. It's also the longest average in history (MLB lists 2000 as a "then-record" 2:58).

Quick, name the two teams who played the longest nine-inning game this season. OK, everybody got that one. But what if we said the Yankees and Red Sox also played the shortest game of the year?

Trick question. It was the "Sunday Night Baseball" affair that was delayed three times and finally called after 5½ innings. Although it didn't "end" until after midnight, the teams played for an only 1 hour, 58 minutes.

The shortest nine-inning game was 2:01, by the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres (May 18). And the longest game? That's 18 innings and a whopping 7:06 from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies in August.

Although the Cardinals game above went until 3:14 a.m., it was the Angels/Athletics game of April 29 that kept us up the latest. Brandon Moss walked off in the 19th inning at 1:41 a.m., 27 minutes later when adjusted for time zones.

If you watched every game of the 2013 season back-to-back (we'll let you fast-forward through the rain delays), it would take more than 316 days. That's the time from today until Nov. 11.

Better get started, pitchers and catchers begin reporting in 44 days.