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Article: Can Extending Relief Appearances Address Baseball’s Pace of Play Concerns?

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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 08:30 PM

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred appears to be taking a hard stance on the game’s perceived pace of play issues, and intends on introducing a 20-second pitch clock. That's worked in the minors to some degree, but there’s something else that’s separated the majors and the minors: Length of relief appearances.Twins relief pitchers averaged 3.267 outs per appearance in 2017, which was actually slightly above league average. There seems to be a perception that the game has become more specialized of late, but even back in 1997 the average relief appearance was only 3.5 outs. That's not a huge difference, but starting pitching has surely changed greatly over that time, right?

Yes, but maybe not as much as you would have guessed. Last season, starting pitchers averaged 5.5 innings, or 16.5 outs. Back in 1997, they averaged 6.0 innings, or 18 outs. By using those figures, the average number of pitchers needed to get 27 outs as risen from 3.57 in 1997 to 4.28 last season. Over that same stretch, the average time of game has increased 12 minutes, from 2:56 to 3:08.

The more pitchers/pitching changes needed, the longer the games are going to take. Makes sense. But relief pitchers can throw more. We know this. Just look at how they’re used in the minor leagues.

Trevor Hildenberger 2017
Outs per appearance
Twins 3.42
Rochester 4.38

Appearances with more than three outs
Twins 15/37 (40.5 percent)
Rochester 11/21 (52.4 percent)

Appearances with six outs or more
Twins 6/37 (16.2 percent)
Rochester 9/21 (42.9 percent)

Alan Busenitz 2017
Outs per appearance
Twins 3.39
Rochester 4.41

Appearances with more than three outs
Twins 9/28 (32.1 percent)
Rochester 13/24 (54.1 percent)

Appearances with six outs or more
Twins 5/28 (17.9 percent)
Rochester 8/24 (33.3 percent)

Those are big differences, right? But the crazy thing is Hildy and Booze weren’t even really stretched that far on the farm compared to some other minor leaguers. Logan Lombana (5.47) and Michael Theofanopoulos (5.43) both averaged more than five outs per game out of the bullpen. Just trailing them were Todd Van Steensel (4.89), Luke Bard at (4.78), Sam Clay (4.70) and Andrew Vasquez (4.70).

Bullpen specialization is a very rare thing in the minor leagues.

The closest thing the Twins had to a long man over the course of the season was Tyler Duffey. He recorded more than three outs in 25 of his appearances, which was tied for the sixth-most in baseball. Still, even Duffey only averaged 3.80 outs per appearance. The MLB leader in outs per games in relief was Yusmeiro Petit at 4.4.

There are certainly some strategic reasons why relief appearances are shortened in the major leagues, but there also seem to be a lot of games in which MLB managers burn through an unnecessary number of bullpen arms. The Twins only played 33 one-run games last season, and here are some numbers that suggest a lot of their games are in hand to some degree even after just four innings:

2017 Minnesota Twins
Leading entering the fifth inning: 60-11 (.845)
Tied entering the fifth inning: 13-12 (.520)
Trailing entering the fifth inning: 12-54 (.182)

Maybe those numbers are so extreme exactly because of the way bullpens are currently used, I don’t know. But it seems the question for managers becomes this: Would you rather let one of your relievers record six outs and not be able to use him for a few days, or use two different pitchers for an inning each and rest easy knowing at most they’ll just need one night off?

If the pace doesn't pick up, it's entirely possible the Commissioner takes aim at bullpen usage. Could he decide to enforce some kind of minimum batters faced per relief appearance? Who knows? The MLB certainly seems motivated to pick up the pace. It'll be interesting to see at what lengths they'll go to make that happen.

Related
Players’ Union Rejects Pace Of Play Proposals
Dozier Debate: Contract Extension? Pace of Play?
Twins And Losses Supershow 54 - Slow News Day (pace of play discussion begins a bit after the 13-minute mark)

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#2 Nine of twelve

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 09:25 PM

This is a bad idea. Managers should not have an artificial constraint like this getting in the way of managing a game.
The purpose of minor league baseball is player development. Winning games is of low priority. It's much more like spring training baseball than it is like regular season major league baseball. Pitchers are used based on how much work they need, not based on how they can help win a given game. For that reason, comparing the length of major league relief appearances and the length of minor league relief appearances is worthless data.
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#3 Riverbrian

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 09:46 PM

Research told McDonalds that they wanted healthy food options. McDonalds introduced the McLean as a result of what seemed to be undeniable data. The people spoke but the people didn't put their money where their mouth was. 

 

When you ask people to make suggestions there are times when they say things that they think they should say. Umm... Healthy Food... Yeah... Healthy Food... that's what I'm supposed to say.  

 

 

Baseball clearly has a major demographic issue that needs to be addressed and they don't have that long to address it. The median age is 55, it won't be long before the bulk of the audience ages out of the prime demo real estate that attract advertisers. The advertisers will placing ad buys with the coupons offered by your favorite team. It's a serious problem.

 

When conducting research to solve this serious problem. I totally believe that the number one issue would reveal itself as pace of play. 

 

However... I'm not sure they are drilling down what they mean by that.

 

I just don't believe that a pitch clock saving 10 minutes or the extra 10 minutes saved by limiting mound visits and pitching changes is going to fix it. Lowering the average length of game from 3 hours and 7 minutes to 2 hours and 47 minutes isn't the button that turns on the future generations. They can barely make it through one inning without flipping over to the WWE and forgetting to go back to the game. 

 

Baseball is what it is. It's a game built on failure and failure means the routine over and over again until someone hits one 500 feet. The problem isn't time... it's the action.

 

They need to think about connecting with the increasingly distracted younger generation. This needs to be done with technology. Use technology to get the game on every smart phone, tablet, or whatever so people can watch the game with ease. Tired of whatever App... I can easily flip the game on. Don't charge an arm and a leg for viewing rights. Think Cume... a little from the many instead of milking the few.

 

Use that same technology to create stars. If you don't know who Mike Trout is... Hang in there... we will educate you by plastering Mike Trout funny videos on every social media site. Make Trout and Byron Buxton human interest stories so people can relate to them. Use the technology to educate and entertain. Don't think you are too hip for the room if you introduce spin rates or launch angles. The more people know... the more they will get into it. Educate... share the details. 

 

Get Rid of Dick and Bert. I'm sorry to say it... I love those guys... but... broadcasts need to re-brand themselves. Dick and Bert style is yesterday. If broadcasts are going to explain the new data and educate people about the game of baseball... we are going to need people who understand it. The Big smooth tones of Dick won't matter anymore... It will be the content... can he entertain? Can he liven up the dull times that are inherent in the game.  

 

And please stop worrying about the short term buck and stop quibbling over territorial rights and make sure that the Twins Fans can access the action in Iowa, Vermont or anywhere on every device possible for as economically as possible. Think Cume... a little from the many instead of milking the few. 

 

It's also going to take a culture change from the 1920 baseball ideals that are still adhered to. Baseball got a big clue toward the right direction of actually entertaining a younger generation during the WBC and Ian Kinsler was sure to slap the Puerto Rico baseball team for that... Let them know that fun is not allowed is what Ian and our 1920 traditions are saying.

 

Let them do backflips around the bases after home runs. Enough Library Baseball or you get beaned. 

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#4 Tom Froemming

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 10:47 PM

 

This is a bad idea. Managers should not have an artificial constraint like this getting in the way of managing a game.
The purpose of minor league baseball is player development. Winning games is of low priority. It's much more like spring training baseball than it is like regular season major league baseball. Pitchers are used based on how much work they need, not based on how they can help win a given game. For that reason, comparing the length of major league relief appearances and the length of minor league relief appearances is worthless data.

The idea to put a minimum on how many batters a reliever must face? Agreed, I don't like that at all. The idea that managers should start extended relief appearances on their own? Especially in low-leverage situations? That I'd like very much. 

 

Let's take a look at Taylor Rogers. Of his team-leading 69 appearances, 20 of them came in the seventh inning or later when the score was separated by at least three runs. That's nearly 30 percent of his outings. At the same time, Rogers only recorded four or more outs eight times all season. This is from a guy who threw 174.0 innings for Rochester in 2015. He's obviously not a guy you want facing a tough right-hander in a tight game, but why not let him get 5-6 outs if you have a 3+ run lead? 

 

Also, take a look at how often these guys threw 15 or fewer pitches in an outing

Rogers 48/69 (69.6%)

Belisle 35/62 (56.5%)

Duffey 19/56 (33.9%)

Pressly 30/57 (52.6%)

 

Sure, the minor leagues are about development, but guys are being developed to pitch in multiple innings in the minor leagues. That's relevant data.

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#5 Respy

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 06:46 AM

The only way I see longer relief appearances actually being implementable would be by limiting the roster size of the pitching staff.Less pitchers = more innings per pitcher and less mix-and-matching.But, I don't see this ever happening.If anything, I've heard ramblings of expanding the total roster size to 26, which would make the problem worse.I generally agree with most of Riverbrian's thoughts.People will watch a 2.5-3 hour sport if it's interesting enough.Or, at least they'll think to flip back to it near the end of the game.Let's find ways to make the game action more interesting for the casual fan.Analytics and new color commentators are a good way to do that.


#6 Han Joelo

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 07:35 AM

 

Research told McDonalds that they wanted healthy food options. McDonalds introduced the McLean as a result of what seemed to be undeniable data. The people spoke but the people didn't put their money where their mouth was. 

 

When you ask people to make suggestions there are times when they say things that they think they should say. Umm... Healthy Food... Yeah... Healthy Food... that's what I'm supposed to say.  

 

 

Baseball clearly has a major demographic issue that needs to be addressed and they don't have that long to address it. The median age is 55, it won't be long before the bulk of the audience ages out of the prime demo real estate that attract advertisers. The advertisers will placing ad buys with the coupons offered by your favorite team. It's a serious problem.

 

When conducting research to solve this serious problem. I totally believe that the number one issue would reveal itself as pace of play. 

 

However... I'm not sure they are drilling down what they mean by that.

 

I just don't believe that a pitch clock saving 10 minutes or the extra 10 minutes saved by limiting mound visits and pitching changes is going to fix it. Lowering the average length of game from 3 hours and 7 minutes to 2 h7yours and 47 minutes isn't the button that turns on the future generations. They can barely make it through one inning without flipping over to the WWE and forgetting to go back to the game. 

 

Baseball is what it is. It's a game built on failure and failure means the routine over and over again until someone hits one 500 feet. The problem isn't time... it's the action.

 

They need to think about connecting with the increasingly distracted younger generation. This needs to be done with technology. Use technology to get the game on every smart phone, tablet, or whatever so people can watch the game with ease. Tired of whatever App... I can easily flip the game on. Don't charge an arm and a leg for viewing rights. Think Cume... a little from the many instead of milking the few.

 

Use that same technology to create stars. If you don't know who Mike Trout is... Hang in there... we will educate you by plastering Mike Trout funny videos on every social media site. Make Trout and Byron Buxton human interest stories so people can relate to them. Use the technology to educate and entertain. Don't think you are too hip for the room if you introduce spin rates or launch angles. The more people know... the more they will get into it. Educate... share the details. 

 

Get Rid of Dick and Bert. I'm sorry to say it... I love those guys... but... broadcasts need to re-brand themselves. Dick and Bert style is yesterday. If broadcasts are going to explain the new data and educate people about the game of baseball... we are going to need people who understand it. The Big smooth tones of Dick won't matter anymore... It will be the content... can he entertain? Can he liven up the dull times that are inherent in the game.  

 

And please stop worrying about the short term buck and stop quibbling over territorial rights and make sure that the Twins Fans can access the action in Iowa, Vermont or anywhere on every device possible for as economically as possible. Think Cume... a little from the many instead of milking the few. 

 

It's also going to take a culture change from the 1920 baseball ideals that are still adhered to. Baseball got a big clue toward the right direction of actually entertaining a younger generation during the WBC and Ian Kinsler was sure to slap the Puerto Rico baseball team for that... Let them know that fun is not allowed is what Ian and our 1920 traditions are saying.

 

Let them do backflips around the bases after home runs. Enough Library Baseball or you get beaned. 

 

All of this--those minor tweaks won't change a thing.  There will still be a high-profile playoff game (or every playoff game as well as the All-Star game) with tons of pitching changes gumming up the works.  But that is the game!  Changing the fundamental perception, and how it is digested is the key.  

 

Hell, I rarely watch or listen to a full game, but because I have an overall appreciation, consuming it in TF's TD Recaps and watch highlights on the MLB app on my Apple TV is pretty sweet.

 

This all reminds me of a recent article I read about the venerable old churchs of downtown (fill in the blank, this article was about Twin Falls, Idaho.). Dwindling attendance and what to do about that.  Is religion and/or spirituality dead?  Or do the younger generations just not want to sit around listening to Reverend Lovejoy/Dick Bremer?

 

The pitch clock thing is like giving my 6 year old a band-aid when they have a headache.

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#7 Nine of twelve

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 07:45 AM

Want more action? Make the strike zone larger so that batters will swing at more pitches. Decrease the height of the mound so that pitchers won't be able to strike as many batters out.

Edited by Nine of twelve, 31 January 2018 - 07:46 AM.

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#8 SarasotaBill

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 08:18 AM

Baseball heritage was one pitcher per game. So baseball has changed and evolved over time. 

Let's get rid of pitchers who only pitch to one batter.

Two Rules:

1. A pitcher who starts the inning must pitch to three batters.

2. A pitcher who comes into the game must pitch to three batters.

 

It speeds up the snail pace of games.

 

It adds even more strategy.

 

It'll probably add more hits and drama.

 

 


#9 Respy

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 09:02 AM

 

Want more action? Make the strike zone larger so that batters will swing at more pitches. Decrease the height of the mound so that pitchers won't be able to strike as many batters out.

 

I would presume that increasing the strike zone size would result in more strikeouts? 

 

I know that lowering the mound has been discussed.I personally would support this, especially and only if it also were to decrease injury risk for pitchers.Reference: https://www.scienced...80323210203.htm


#10 laloesch

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 09:08 AM

Reduce the number of commercial breaks.That's were a bulk of the time is going.

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#11 birdwatcher

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 09:13 AM

Millennials will not begin to embrace the game of baseball until MLB figures out that batters strolling back to the dugout after whiffing should be given a Certificate of Participation by the time they reach the on-deck circle. No waiting til he gets to the dugout because speed of game, you know. And instant feedback.

Edited by birdwatcher, 31 January 2018 - 09:14 AM.

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#12 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 09:15 AM

Baseball needs to rid itself of the pace of play agenda. Baseball is what it always has been and we are getting dangerously close to damaging the integrity of the game. Baseball has either the 1st or 2nd most participants in youth sports in this country. It will survive and thrive.
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#13 JLease

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 10:12 AM

 

Baseball needs to rid itself of the pace of play agenda. Baseball is what it always has been and we are getting dangerously close to damaging the integrity of the game. Baseball has either the 1st or 2nd most participants in youth sports in this country. It will survive and thrive.

 

Questionable assertion.

 

http://www.engagespo...tics-and-trends

 

Baseball hasn't been number #1 or #2 in some time; while it's unlikely to keep falling down the charts any time soon, the participation numbers are declining like a lot of youth sports. 

 

It's easier than ever to see a baseball game on tv...and harder to carve out enough time to do it. The fan experience at a professional baseball game is one of the better ones in professional sports...but time makes it harder to bring kids to the game. (Think about how many parents leave in the 6th or 7th inning when they have kids, because it's already 9:30pm and if they stay to the end it's after 10 and will take another 435 minutes to get out of the parking garage)

 

the relief epidemic is getting to be problematic, and I'd have no problem with mandating a reliever face more than 1 batter (3 sounds like it might be a sweet spot). rosters with 13 pitchers, constant pitching changes and delays, starters being considered quality for hacking their way through 5 innings these sorts of things impact the integrity of the game in their own way too.

 

A pitch clock would be great. Meditating on the mound and running through 7 sets of signs while contemplating the mysteries of the universe before throwing the ball doesn't help baseball. (what are they doing, reciting tug McGraw's "frozen ice-ball" theory in their heads before each pitch?) batters stepping out of the box to re-adjust 14 straps on various equipment their wearing so they can dip their elbows into the strike zone without fear of getting hit by a pitch don't help either.

 

I swear, I miss Mark Buehrle just for how fast he kept a game moving.


#14 Winston Smith

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 10:37 AM

Why are people in such a hurry to get the games over? Do they really have a better place to be than at the game?

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#15 ahart10

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 10:38 AM

I think once baseball gets away from lumbering dinosaurs, who are three true outcome players, and move to more athletic players, triples, steals, great defense, the game will be exciting again. Three outcome players are killing my entertainment.
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#16 bobs

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 11:00 AM

I see two very feasible ways to speed up games.1) Limit catchers' trips to the mound.2) Use the in-game commercials like FOX does for NFL games.There are 17 breaks between half innings.Cut a minute off each by limiting commercial time.

These two things would immediately cut 20+ minutes off each game time.

 

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#17 RegularJoe62

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 11:48 AM

 

I see two very feasible ways to speed up games.1) Limit catchers' trips to the mound.2) Use the in-game commercials like FOX does for NFL games.There are 17 breaks between half innings.Cut a minute off each by limiting commercial time.

These two things would immediately cut 20+ minutes off each game time.

 

I like this idea a lot. You could replace those 30 seconds between innings with 10 second in-game ads while the next batter makes his way to the plate. 

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#18 KirbyDome89

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 12:35 PM

I agree with most here; I hate the idea of limiting the number of pitchers available or setting a minimum number of batters a relief pitcher must face. 

 

At what point is MLB going to accept some responsibility in the length of games? I'm tired of seeing the burden being shifted entirely onto the players and I certainly don't want to see the game fundamentally changed as a result. 

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#19 Tommygun921

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 12:35 PM

As I had above. Making. MLB.tv more accessible would help get more viewers. IMO. Blacking out in-market games is just ridiculous. In Western Iowa where I live I am blacked out of the Twins, Royals, Cardinals, White Sox, Cubs and Brewers games. And subsequently the teams they play. I think making games more mobile and available will help get viewers for the younger generation.
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#20 Shaitan

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 01:14 PM

The pace of baseball is the whole point of the game. Might as well just play a round robin tournament in April and get it over with instead, huh?

 

Seriously, it's wise to not want time to balloon out of control, but a clock is a fundamental change. I fully advocate limiting time between at bats or pitches in some way, but mandated behind the scenes. I don't want penalties in baseball (and they don't speed up the game either).




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