On the Clock

In recent years, time has become quite an issue in Major League Baseball games.

Since the mid-1900s, baseball games have gradually become longer. The pace of the game has slowed down significantly, and it is seriously affecting the MLB’s popularity. Commissioner Rob Manfred is not a fan of the wasted time in games, and he has started to take action to fix the issue. Pitch clocks seem to be a possible solution and Manfred hopes to see pitch clocks make an appearance in the Majors in the near future.

Manfred is not a fan of the wasted time in games, and he has started to take action to fix the issue. Pitch clocks seem to be a possible solution and Manfred hopes to see pitch clocks make an appearance in the Majors in the near future.

NOT STEADY, JUST SLOW

Baseball is the only sport played in America without a game clock. Players in recent years have felt they are able to take as much time as they would like during at bats; both pitchers and hitters.

Technically they can, and they continue to take as much time as they want to throughout games.

The average length of a Major League game in the 1950s was approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. In 2014 the average game length was about 3 hours and 8 minutes.

Almost an hour has been added to the average length of games over the last few decades, and this is due to the lack of pace that players put forward. Pitchers and hitters waste lots of time in between pitches, coaches and catchers will visit the mound to talk to the pitcher, and there is extra time in between innings that could be cut down.

Boston Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia is well known for adjusting his batting gloves in between every pitch, and he takes his time when he is up to bat. Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez is the slowest working pitcher in the MLB, averaging almost 30 seconds in between each pitch. He is not in a hurry, to say the least.

Baseball has reached a point where Major League officials and commissioners have recognized that this issue needs to be addressed.

Miami Marlins president David Samson stated “We have to recognize the reality of life today, which is that attention spans are going down and choices are going up. Whatever business you’re in, you have to adjust.”

Sports fans, and especially young audiences are becoming increasingly interested in faster paced sports such as basketball and football, and if the MLB does not change its rules, the chances of the baseball fan base increasing are slim to none.

Manfred has also stated that he is not a fan of the slow paces, and he has wasted no time in taking action. He has stated that he is less concerned about the length of games decreasing, but he would like to see a faster pace in games.

Pitch clocks have been introduced in a number of minor league systems, and there are a few other rules that have been put into effect to speed games up.First introduced in the Arizona fall league in 2014, pitch clocks have made a big impact on the minor leagues ever since. The clocks made a big debut in 2015, and the leagues have seen an increase in pace and a decrease in game lengths already. It appears that pitch clocks will make an appearance in the majors in the near future, and they look to have a positive impact.

THE RULES

In most minor league games, there are either one or two clocks on the field. Normally, there is one behind home plate by the backstop and one in center field. The one in center field is for the home plate umpire, who enforces the rules of the clocks. If there is only one clock (behind the plate) then the second base umpire is in charge of enforcing the rules. The clock(s) start when the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher and ends when the pitcher begins his delivery.

Sometimes the clock will be paused or reset, but only under certain circumstances. For instance, if a pitcher steps off the rubber, the clock will keep running unless the umpire grants the pitcher time. The clock is reset if a batter asks for time with five or more seconds left on the clock. If a hitter runs on a foul ball, or a runner steals a base on a foul ball, the clock will not restart until they return to either the dirt circle by the plate or to their respective base. There is also a clock for between inning changes. There is a 90 or a 108-second clock that starts when the last defensive player crosses the foul line by the dugout and ends when the pitcher starts his delivery to begin the inning. These rules have been effective in eliminating some of the wasted time during games.

THE PENALTIES

There are several penalties for violating pitch clocks and some of them have serious impacts on the game, which most likely contribute to the success of the clocks.

If a pitcher does not start his windup within 20 seconds of receiving the ball from the catcher, he will get a warning from the umpire first.

Every time he violates the clock rule after that, a ball will be added to the count. Hitters are on the clock as well, and they need to be mindful of how much time they take in between pitches. If the batter does not step in the box with five or more seconds on the clock, then a strike will be added to the count. Violating the 90 or 108-second clock in between innings has its consequences as well. If the hitter is not ready within this time limit, a strike is added to the count before the at-bat even begins. If the pitcher is not ready by the time the clock expires, a ball is added to the count.

Bottom line is, the clock keeps running unless the umpire grants time or players are out of position. So players cannot lollygag or they will pay the price. These penalties can have serious impacts on at bats, as every pitch counts.

Pitch clocks have been effective in the minor leagues thus far, as the average duration of a game has decreased by a few minutes in almost every single league they were used in.

Although it may be a while before the leagues see a serious decrease in the length of games, pitch clocks will hopefully get pitchers and hitters to work faster and maintain a steady but quick pace in each inning.

Pitch clocks may have more of an impact on slow-working pitchers, the pitch clocks may still be necessary. Forcing some players to work faster could have serious impacts on their playing careers, as they have spent their whole lives pitching in a certain rhythm.

With increasing fan interest in faster paced sports, pitch clocks may be essential in gaining more fans and keeping MLB in competition.

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