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The Athletic: 15 second pitch clock cuts *21 minutes* off MiLB game times


Brock Beauchamp
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I've been advocating for a pitch clock for about a decade now and why we don't have a hard pitch clock in MLB continues to baffle me. It fixes a bunch of problems in one fell swoop: pace of play, overall game length, max-effort pitching, increased action, and probably other stuff I'm not thinking of in the moment.

Make it happen already, MLB. Stop sitting around, hoping that the game is going to magically fix itself, you ineffectual buffoons.

If you don't subscribe to The Athletic, you should probably do so but here's a game length chart from the article. Yikes.

1981
2:33
1991
2:48
2001
2:58
2011
2:51
2021
3:09

https://theathletic.com/2829518/2021/09/17/can-this-minor-league-pitch-clock-solve-all-of-mlbs-problems/?source=user_shared_article&fbclid=IwAR0RwcQsa-gGLdQ75UcduGHVJn09oZ_up1rWr3Bb9LMKfIfuvp2ojTED0SE

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I agree, it just makes sense.  You really don't notice that it's there.  I was even at a AAA game in which the pitcher was in a direct line between my seat and the clock.  If it weren't for that, I wouldn't have noticed it at all.  The game had a perfect cadence and was probably one of the most enjoyable games I've attended since some of those Buerhle/Silva matchups that would take just over 2 hours to complete.   

And now is a good time to implement it.  It's been around long enough that most, if not all, of the players coming up have had it ingrained in them.  

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I also advocated for this...not that my voice could be heard in the smoke-filled rooms, but I think it is a great spark plug for the pace of the game. Instead, they took the more bizarre option of forcing relievers to pitch to a minimum of three batters. Of course, it didn't work. It doesn't even make sense to me. If a reliever is sharp, most of the time, he'd probably stay in the game for multiple hitters. If he walks the first batter on 4-5 pitches, he's probably not sharp, so is it saving so much time by forcing him to pitch to two more hitters and then end up going to the bullpen anyway? Obviously not. Let's dump the goofy rule and go with the clock rule.

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There were times tonight where the pitcher (both pitchers) was in the windup 7-8 seconds after the ball hit his glove on the throw back from the catcher. All of the stepping out, holding the ball, walking around the mound adds nothing to performance and loses too many potential fans. I do not mind watching a long game and can watch an entire game standing up when two good teams playing well are competing, but the meaningless delays are not a good look for the game. The 15-20 second clock is more than reasonable. As I type this, the Giants pitcher is taking only 10 seconds from catch to motion; it is easily done. I read the article too and it is a bonus if a better pace  results in better baseball. No doubt, this will also be noted by fans.

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I feel I understand the motivation for pitchers and batters alike to try to "slow the game down", in the mental sense, so as to provide absolute top-notch performance.  But that implies that to force them to speed up the game is approximately an equal burden to both adversaries.  The batter may not have quite as much time to focus on the strategy of the next pitch, the pitcher likewise may not be able to concentrate on precise mechanics (and max-effort may not be as advisable, as already has been pointed out), but the net result may not be any diminishment of the competition, and the same approximate quality of play should result. Or maybe better - or at least more entertaining - because optimality can be awfully dull when viewed over and over.  Good competition comes from mistakes on both sides.

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I'm in favor if it but only with these two provisions: One, there must also be a clock on the batter getting both feet in the batter's box (and the pitch clock will not start until that happens). Two, the pitch clock (but not the batter clock) will be turned off when there is a runner on base.

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6 hours ago, Nine of twelve said:

I'm in favor if it but only with these two provisions: One, there must also be a clock on the batter getting both feet in the batter's box (and the pitch clock will not start until that happens). Two, the pitch clock (but not the batter clock) will be turned off when there is a runner on base.

Two clocks are rather unnecessary. Give control to the pitcher and make the batter be ready when he throws. It's not as if a pitcher can toe the rubber and get the ball to the plate in a split second. If the batter is in the box, he can follow what the pitcher is doing, be prepared, and react accordingly.

I'd be fine with adding the pitch clock only when the bases are empty but ultimately, it may need to be universal, lest the pitcher start reeling and then slow the game to a crawl as he tries to regain his composure.

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One of the beautiful things about baseball is there is no time limit, unlike most sports. (Soccer has their own weird version of a time limit, but whatever). But there is no reason why baseball can't control the time within the game itself. I haven't read the article...no subscription at this time...but if I were to speculate, part of the extended length of games is also attributed to additional commercial breaks. And there is no coming back from that! It's like and NFL game. Score...break. KO or punt....another break. They need to feed the beast. I get it. All the more reason to clock the play on the field.

I agree with NineofTwelve and Ash regarding batters. Batters should only have a few moments to think, re-adjust their gloves and crotch, and get back in the box. And as Ash stated, a clock affects both sides, so it's fair. BUT, I also agree that runners in base, especially in scoring  position, might allow either extra seconds, or a delayed clock.

What I find funny/interesting is most pitching coaches through history have preached a fast approach. Sucks if you can't adapt. LOL. But this makes so much sense it's crazy.

 

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If this experiment were done in the MLB, this would mean 21 minutes of fewer commercials.  Not sure anyone making money in baseball really wants that, and those are the people making the decisions.

It's possible baseball does things to get games back under 3 hours, but that's as far as I can see them going, and I would wager any moves to shorten the game to that mark would be a one-time correction. 

There is a lot of lip service from the commissioner's office about the length of games, but there's a reason no changes have been made other than goofball ideas around bizarre pitching and extra innings rules, which do not address the core problem.

The pitching rules make games longer because a relief pitcher coughing up runs has to stay in longer.

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20 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

If this experiment were done in the MLB, this would mean 21 minutes of fewer commercials.

It wouldn't, though. Baseball goes to commercial between innings and at pitching changes. The same number of commercials would air per game.

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3 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

It wouldn't, though. Baseball goes to commercial between innings and at pitching changes. The same number of commercials would air per game.

Who believes Manfred wouldn't add 30 seconds to the "commercial breaks"??

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Just now, BD57 said:

Who believes Manfred wouldn't add 30 seconds to the "commercial breaks"??

I highly doubt it. Listen, I think Manfred is as big of a putz as anyone else around here but he's not out to kill the sport intentionally.

He implemented the three batter rule which actually reduced the number of commercials per game. I'm lukewarm on the three batter rule as a whole but if anything, it slightly diminished advertising revenue for the sport.

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Talking to the Mighty Mussels manager and pitching coach today about the electronic strike zone. I believe the manager said Meh. The pitching coach said he hates it and gave 3-4 reasons. One reason was that the games, across all High-A, were much longer. Apparently Baseball America did a study and article on it. 

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2 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I'd love to see this study, as there's no effing way I believe a pitch clock lengthens games.

And even if they did lengthen games (which I believe is nearly impossible), the increased action more than makes up for it.

Yeah, I'd have to look that up... the other thing is that they changed the strike zone midway through the season, widening it and lowering the top of the zone. Interesting, I'll have to listen back to that interview to hear their thoughts on how that effected things. 

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38 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

Talking to the Mighty Mussels manager and pitching coach today about the electronic strike zone. I believe the manager said Meh. The pitching coach said he hates it and gave 3-4 reasons. One reason was that the games, across all High-A, were much longer. Apparently Baseball America did a study and article on it. 

I've read and seen some pretty convincing evidence that the umpire-called strike zone and the rule-based strike zone are quite different.

But that's a different conversation, as this is about a pitch clock. Personally, I think both are warranted but I'll take the pitch clock first and foremost.

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1 minute ago, Seth Stohs said:

Yeah, I'd have to look that up... the other thing is that they changed the strike zone midway through the season, widening it and lowering the top of the zone. Interesting, I'll have to listen back to that interview to hear their thoughts on how that effected things. 

See my above post. There's definitely a difference in ump-called and rule-based strike zones. The automated strike zones are based on the rules, which may need to be changed.

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On 9/18/2021 at 6:22 PM, Brock Beauchamp said:

Two clocks are rather unnecessary. Give control to the pitcher and make the batter be ready when he throws. It's not as if a pitcher can toe the rubber and get the ball to the plate in a split second. If the batter is in the box, he can follow what the pitcher is doing, be prepared, and react accordingly.

So what would prevent a batter from standing outside the batter's box and letting the pitch clock wind down? Whether there's a batter's clock or not the pitch clock should not start until a legal pitch can be thrown.

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On 9/18/2021 at 6:22 PM, Brock Beauchamp said:

I'd be fine with adding the pitch clock only when the bases are empty but ultimately, it may need to be universal, lest the pitcher start reeling and then slow the game to a crawl as he tries to regain his composure.

So what if the pitcher slows down a bit in occasional situations? Speeding up pace of play does not have to mean there must be action every second.

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Lately, I have been paying particularly close attention to pitchers who have appeared in minor league games recently before subsequent appearances in major league games. Whether it was relief pitchers in tight late inning spots or starting pitchers, the pace of game was always quick. The batters might step out from time to time to attempt to dictate tempo but even then the pitches were delivered in less than twenty seconds. Shane Baz was less than ten seconds between pitches quite often in his debut with Tampa.

I do not like the idea of a clock in baseball but there needs to be some conversations about reducing the difficult habits of a few players, which may necessitate a rule change. There are pitchers who regularly take thirty plus seconds to deliver every pitch and this does nothing to maintain interest in the game. 

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On 9/19/2021 at 12:24 PM, Dodecahedron said:

If this experiment were done in the MLB, this would mean 21 minutes of fewer commercials.  Not sure anyone making money in baseball really wants that, and those are the people making the decisions.

It's possible baseball does things to get games back under 3 hours, but that's as far as I can see them going, and I would wager any moves to shorten the game to that mark would be a one-time correction. 

There is a lot of lip service from the commissioner's office about the length of games, but there's a reason no changes have been made other than goofball ideas around bizarre pitching and extra innings rules, which do not address the core problem.

The pitching rules make games longer because a relief pitcher coughing up runs has to stay in longer.

Hmmm, if only there were a technology where the broadcaster could “split the screen” where the game would appear on half the screen, and the advertisement would appear on the other half. That way the game could be played continuously and all of the parties would earn the advertising benefits/revenue!

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19 minutes ago, Sconnie said:

Hmmm, if only there were a technology where the broadcaster could “split the screen” where the game would appear on half the screen, and the advertisement would appear on the other half. That way the game could be played continuously and all of the parties would earn the advertising benefits/revenue!

Advertisers want your full attention.

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7 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

Advertisers want your full attention.

And yet they advertise all over the place during every sport, all the time.  Advertising has no lack of exposure in sports.

Diminishing fan interest in over-long games will make the advertisers more frustrated than anything.  The most successful sport in the country has repeatedly made efforts to tighten up games and keep them streamlined.  Pretty sure the NFL ain't hurting for advertising.

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12 hours ago, Nine of twelve said:

So what would prevent a batter from standing outside the batter's box and letting the pitch clock wind down? Whether there's a batter's clock or not the pitch clock should not start until a legal pitch can be thrown.

Just allow the pitcher to throw anyway, regardless of where the batter is.

As long as pitchers are allowed to wait 30 seconds or more with their pitch it's only fair to allow batters to step out and ask for time. You can't expect them to keep up their concentration for such an extended time. But asking hitters to be ready for 15 seconds should be doable. If they're not in the box and ready to hit the incoming pitch, it's their fault.

But pitch clocks can't come soon enough, if you ask me.

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9 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

And yet they advertise all over the place during every sport, all the time.  Advertising has no lack of exposure in sports.

Diminishing fan interest in over-long games will make the advertisers more frustrated than anything.  The most successful sport in the country has repeatedly made efforts to tighten up games and keep them streamlined.  Pretty sure the NFL ain't hurting for advertising.

The NFL charges a hell of a lot more for advertising.  The only thing common between the NFL and the MLB is that they are both sports.

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12 hours ago, Nine of twelve said:

So what would prevent a batter from standing outside the batter's box and letting the pitch clock wind down? Whether there's a batter's clock or not the pitch clock should not start until a legal pitch can be thrown.

Per the article, the batter must be in the batters box by the 8 second point or there is an automatic strike called. 

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