My new article, joint work with Pravin and Sriram, has appeared in FiveThirtyEight this week. It's motivated by this chart, showing the lengths of baseball games:
Since 2000, the average Major League baseball game lasts over 3 hours; one out of 10 games takes over 3.5 hours. The added time is almost all non-action time. In fact, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal in which they logged a bunch of games and discovered that less than 10 percent of the game time can be classified as "action." For the uninitiated, the "non-action" time includes pitchers staring at the batter, batters taking practice swings, managers slow-walking to the mound to chit-chat with the pitcher, etc.
To their credit, the League office has started to pay attention to this problem although it seems like an agreement with the players' union is hard to come by. Some fans are taking matters into their own hands - why fight with all others to get out of the stadium when you can leave in the middle of the game, with one team "comfortably" ahead?
In our article, we model this decision as a stay-or-leave decision, and use Wald's Sequential Probability Ratio Test to scientifically determine the optimal time to leave. Here's the bottom line:
A back-of-the-envelope estimate pegs the total amount of time saved at 1,612 hours for the season. The price to pay was the 61 mistakes — dramatic comebacks that were heard on the radio from the parking lot by the fans who left early.