After many years of debate, the owners of Major League Baseball franchises did the unthinkable and finally adopted the pitch clock. The pitch clock was proposed seriously as early as 2014 by Bud Selig who wanted to take aggressive steps to shorten the lengths of games. However as David W. Smith noted in 2018, the issue of the speed of the game has been around for more than a century. Before we get into that, what is the rule?
- The pitch clock is set to 15 seconds if the bases are empty and 20 seconds if there are any runners on base.
- The hitter will be granted only one timeout per at bat.
- The hitter must be in the box and attentive to the pitcher by the eight-second mark. If he isn’t, he will be assessed an automatic strike. If the batter has two strikes on him at the time, it will result in a strikeout.
- Pitchers can only attempt a pickoff or step off two times per at bat. This would beg the question, what happens if a pitcher has already attempted a pickoff twice? Can the runner assume no pickoff?
- If a pitcher attempts a third pickoff on any given pickoff it is not a balk IF AND ONLY IF the pickoff attempt is successful.
Speed up the Pace of Play
Perhaps the main reason for implementing a pitch clock is to speed up the pace of play. Baseball games have become longer and longer over the years, and a pitch clock could help to reduce the time between pitches and keep the game moving. When implemented in the Minor Leagues for the duration of the 2022 season, a common testing ground for new MLB policies, the length of games was reduced by 25 minutes. If you haven’t noticed the length of MLB games getting longer and longer over time, then you haven’t been paying attention. In David Smith’s piece for the Sabermetrics society, he shows the following graph to illustrate just how consistently the length of the game has increased over time.
Increase Action and Excitement
A pitch clock would encourage pitchers to work faster which could lead to more action and excitement on the field as the ratio between action and sitting around is improved. Faster-paced games could also be more engaging for fans, who may be more likely to tune in and stay tuned in for the entire game. While a pitch clock may not necessarily lead to a significant increase in the number of strikes thrown or a decrease in the number of balls thrown, it could create a more efficient and fast-paced game, which could make the game more enjoyable for fans and players alike.
Enhance strategy and Decision-making
Implementing a pitch clock will likely significantly impact the strategic decision-making of managers during games. With the clock ticking down, managers would need to be quick on their feet when making decisions about pitching changes, defensive shifts, and other in-game adjustments.
For example, if a starting pitcher is struggling to find his rhythm and the clock is winding down, a manager may need to make a quick decision about whether to pull him from the game or let him try to work through the rough patch. Similarly, if a team is down a few runs and the clock is ticking, a manager may need to make a bold move and send a pinch hitter up to the plate to try and spark a rally.
These quick decisions could make the game more challenging and exciting for managers, who would need to rely on their instincts and knowledge of the game to make the right calls under pressure. It could also add an additional layer of strategy to the game, as managers try to out-think and out-maneuver each other in real-time.
Additionally, though he had his struggles in spring training with the system, Max Scherzer spoke fondly about the potential of the pitch clock to give pitchers an edge. As part of the rules mentioned above, batters must be in the batter’s box and attentive by the 8-second mark. One of the key maneuvers pitchers would do to break a pitcher’s rhythm is to step out of the batter’s box and just sort of stand there. This would mess with the rhythm of the pitcher who is, presumably, dealing.
Improve Consistency Across The League
One of the key benefits of implementing a pitch clock in Major League Baseball (MLB) would be the improvement of consistency across the league. Currently, the time between pitches can vary widely from pitcher to pitcher and game to game, which can lead to inconsistent gameplay and an uneven playing field.
With a pitch clock, however, all pitchers would be required to adhere to the same time limit between pitches. This would create a consistent standard across the league, ensuring that all teams and players are playing under the same rules and regulations. I think we all remember those Yankee/Red Sox games that would seem to last forever? No more.
But this consistency would be beneficial in several ways. For one, it would create a more level playing field for all teams, as no team would be able to gain an advantage by manipulating the pace of play. It would also make the game fairer for pitchers, who would no longer be able to gain an advantage by taking extra time between pitches.
Still a doubter? Just consider watching college basketball without a shot clock or most current high school basketball games. When the NBA and college basketball adopted the shot clock there was no looking back. As it was with the NBA, college basketball and soon-to-be high school basketball, so it will be with baseball. Just give it a chance.