BOSTON — Games have averaged 3 hours, 35½ minutes, up six minutes from the 2017 postseason and more than a half-hour over the regular season.

Strikeouts have topped hits in seven of eight postseason matchups. Starting pitchers usually don’t finish the fifth inning and use of relievers is up markedly in an era when “bullpenning” has become a verb.

Have the changes brought about by analytics made baseball less appealing to casual fans?

“There’s certainly something to be said for that, because ball in play, double plays, defense, that’s always exciting,” Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said ahead of Tuesday night’s World Series opener against Boston. “I know our series there was a lot of strikeouts, but there was the strategy part of it – I think that that’s very exciting for a baseball purist that loves to see what managers think and how you can kind of match up against the opposition.”

Postseason games this year have averaged a record 18.8 strikeouts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, up from 18.4 last year. There were 526 whiffs and 416 hits in the first 28 postseason games, including 161 strikeouts and 110 hits in the Dodgers’ win over Milwaukee in the NLCS.

Boston’s Division Series victory over the New York was the only one with more hits than strikeouts: 67 to 60.

While viewers hope for action, managers and many players are caught up in the tactical chess match.

“It’s more interesting. It is,” Boston Manager Alex Cora said. “There’s so much information now that you can actually exploit weaknesses on the team, not only rely on the starters or your usual setup guy or your closer. Somebody the last few years figured out that there’s a lot of off days in the playoffs, that you can actually use your starters as relievers or you can go with your relievers for multiple innings, and it’s fun.”

Computer analysis helps teams arrange defensive shifts that take away hits and concludes starting pitchers’ effectiveness often drops the third time through the batting order. Innovative use of relief pitchers by the Chicago Cubs’ Joe Maddon and Cleveland’s Terry Francona in the 2016 World Series caught the attention of the rest of the industry.


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