Over the past few seasons the MLB has tried to speed up Americas favorite pastime any way they can. Some things that the league has done the past few years are: limiting the length of mound visits, no pitch intentional walks (most asinine thing ever put in place), batters must keep one foot in the batters box at all times, and many more are being beta tested in the minors right now.
The game of baseball has undoubtedly slowed down over the past few decades, but I don’t think the way the game is being played is necessarily the reason for this. Being an avid Met fan on a daily basis I listen to two former players talk about how they played in their careers.
Keith Hernandez, 11 time Gold Glove first baseman, 1 time MVP award winner, and a career .296 hitter consistently talks about how he would step out of the batters box to break up the pitchers rhythm.
Ron Darling, who was a one time All Star and a pitcher for 13 seasons would mention how pitching coaches and managers would slowly walk out to the mound in order to buy a little extra time for a reliever in the bullpen. Of course this was prior to the limited time given for mound visits, this was done in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, these games were finished at a faster rate than todays baseball.
For me there are two reasons that baseball today is so slow and one is technically an easy fix, but the other is one that may not be able to be done. The harder fix is that there are too many pitching changes in each game. To me it has been more apparent this year than any other that I have watched, seeing the Mets phenom like pitchers come out after 6 innings and 90-95 pitches thrown.
This lack of depth is somewhat understandable for the Mets as three of their five starters are coming off of surgery to repair something in their throwing arm, so slowly easing them in makes sense. However, isn’t that what spring training is for? Maybe I am being a bit too old school, even though I am a young fan I consider myself a baseball purist.
The biggest problem with six inning outings is not that a reliever needs to come in, but lefties need to face lefties, righties need to face righties, and relievers pitch a max of one inning at a time for the most part. In order to get nine outs some teams may use four or five different guys who all need warm up pitches, and who may be entering with runners on base which slows down the game plenty.
I understand that the days of complete games every day are gone and probably won’t return; the best way to speed up the game is to push the pitchers to 115-120 pitches when they are pitching well. Most pitchers that are having a good day on the mound can get through 7-8 innings with that pitch count, then only one or two pitchers will be needed in relief.
This is a lot easier said than done because in the minors pitchers are only trained to go 100 pitches at a time, so how can we expect them to go 120 without training them that way. Managers are encouraged to use the best matchup possible, and that is a good idea but using two relievers for three outs is a bit overboard.
The best way to keep the pace of play up with this solution is to push the lower level minor leaguers to a higher pitch count, this way 8 innings a game isn’t unthinkable. It was done before, why can’t it be done again?
An outside the box idea that I think is worth doing deals with when a reliever is called into the game. Managers shouldn’t be forced to keep a guy they don’t feel comfortable with on the mound, but when a new guy is called in he gets no warm up pitches on the mound. As of now relievers get eight warm up pitches, which isn’t much but it leads to commercial breaks of about a minute.
If relievers just run to the mound and everyone is in position to play that could save a few minutes a game. I mean that is not something that can’t be done, they get to throw in the bullpen do they really need eight more pitches?
Now the technically easy fix, CUT DOWN COMMERCIAL BREAKS! I understand that this most likely won’t happen because commercials bring in revenue. Newsday’s David Lennon performed an experiment for Sunday Night’s Yankees Cardinals game showing how long commercial breaks really are. http://www.newsday.com/sports/shorter-games-not-yet-1.13473059 (David Lennon’s pace of play article)
Lennon Reported that in the 2 hour 59 minute broadcast 50 minutes were commercials. That is crazy almost a third of the broadcast was commercials, obviously there needs to be breaks every half inning because the players need to warm up and pitchers need a few throws, especially after a long inning.
In between every half inning there is about 2 minutes and 30 seconds of break time, could that be cut down by 30 seconds? That would knock off about 9 minutes of break time through out the game and nothing really changes.
To me the game is perfect the way it is besides the fact that pitchers go shorter distances every year. However, I am a part of a dying breed of baseball fans that doesn’t mind sitting through a long game. People want things quick, fast, and in a hurry today, so baseball must move in that direction. Unfortunately for the MLB that may mean to take a bit of a pay cut.