Baseball games are long. Poetically, soothingly, captivatingly long at times, but long nonetheless. And in a go-go-go world, watching a 3-hour game can be challenging for the average fan, especially if kids are involved.
Baseball knows it, too. That’s why they have cut the time between innings, forced relievers to face a minimum of 3 batters, and altered the format of extra innings.
And that’s why baseball is experimenting with pitch clocks in the minors, including a 15-second trial in the Low-A West League. As Jayson Stark at The Athletic (subscription required) details, the results are intriguing, paving the way for pitch clocks to be introduced in the majors in the coming years.
Since the 15-second pitch clock was instituted 3 months ago, the average game time in Low-A West has dropped from 3:02 to 2:41, a 21-minute decrease. For context, here’s the evolution of game times in the majors, per Baseball Reference:
|YEAR||AVERAGE GAME LENGTH|
Clearly, the trend can’t continue.
Even more surprising than the time savings is the impact on the game itself. In fact, early indications are that the pitch clock is creating more runs, more homers and fewer walks. Here are the numbers:
These dovetail with the changes that baseball is hoping to accomplish through various potential rule tweaks, an effort led by former GM Theo Epstein.
The players would have to sign off on a pitch clock, so don’t expect it to happen without a fight. They’ll cite the history of the game, concerns about reduced velocity or movement, the risk of additional injury and a litany of other worries. But there are players and coaches in Low-A West who are converts. Here’s one testimonial from Stark’s article:
“At first, I’d say I was skeptical,” said Rico Brogna, former major league player and current manager of the Low-A Stockton Ports, “because I’m an old-fashioned, it’s the only game without a clock, kind of person. And I always thought that’s kind of neat and unique to baseball.… But I have been shocked, surprised, and pleasantly, that it has been a really, really good addition.”
Pitches will stay on the rubber. Batters will have to reduce their prep time between pitches. The players will have to adjust and some will have to do so more than others — including a number of Pirates, who are used to a 3:10 average game time this year.
A 15-second clock would force a number of adjustments for Pirates up and down the roster. Here’s a look at the average time between pitches (in seconds) for current Pirate pitchers, according to Baseball Prospectus:
|Chase De Jong||23.0|
And the Pirate hitters:
Moran has the distinction of being not only the slowest runner on the team, but also the slowest pace of play. We are all proud.
A pitch clock is almost inevitable, and as you can see by the numbers above, everyone will have to adjust. That includes plank shufflers like Mears, Kyle Keller, Stratton, Moran, Oliva and Reynolds.
For Pirates fans who see a window to compete in a few years, there is some solace in the fact that the next waves of prospects will already be used to the faster rhythm, since both Double-A and Triple-A currently have 20-second pitch clocks.