Think KBO games are longer Blame bullpens

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Think KBO games are longer Blame bullpens

Frequent replacements of pitchers this season are making baseball games longer, as the domestic baseball league is already reeling from a drop in interest in the sport.

The Korea Baseball Organization said that as of Tuesday, the average playing time of a game this season was 3 hours, 22 minutes, meaning that a game that starts at 6:30 p.m. on a weekday ends at 9:52 p.m.

That’s up eight minutes compared with 3 hours, 14 minutes last year. It took 3 hours, 17 minutes for a ball game to finish in 2011 and 3 hours, 11 minutes in 2010.

The KBO is about a fifth of the way through its 2013 regular season.

Baseball observers say this is mainly due to weaker bullpens across the league. Bullpen pitchers from seven of the nine teams have ERAs of 4.00 or higher. Only the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins have lower figures than that, at 2.62 and 3.39, respectively.

This is a huge departure from last year, when bullpen pitchers from only two teams, the Hanwha Eagles and the Kia Tigers, recorded ERAs of 4.00 or higher.

Last year, the Samsung Lions’ bullpen pitchers had a 2.64 ERA en route to the team’s Korean Series title. This season, their bullpen has a 4.46 ERA, the fourth-lowest in the league.

The Nexen Heroes, who were leading the standings before a game last night, had the worst bullpen ERA in the league, 6.88. Last season, it was 3.82.

The number of blown saves rose to 30 this season so far, almost double from the same period last year. The number of walks by bullpen pitchers also rose from 2.76 per game last year to 3.41.

More errors by position players are also contributing to the longer games. The average number of errors per game increased from 1.17 last year to 1.45.

“The most desirable playing time is around 2 hours and 40 minutes, or 50 minutes,” said Ha Il-sung, a KBS baseball commentator. “If it lengthens more than that, it could make game-watching a boring experience.”

The number of spectators this season stood at 1,297,550 as of Sunday, down 12 percent from the same period last year.


By Lee Hyeong-seok, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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