Pace of Play, Time of Game, and Pitch Clocks

Aug 20, 2007
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This story from BaseballAmerica is about pitch clocks being used in the minor leagues, but considering pace of play/time of game is not specific to the minor leagues, I figured I would post it here in the MLB forums.

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/new-rules-dramatically-sped-up-last-nights-milb-games/
Last night, a new stricter enforcement of pitch clocks (14 seconds with bases empty and 18 seconds with runners on base) and rules that require hitters to remain in the batter’s box began to be enforced around the minors. And while it’s only day one of a season-long experiment, the results were dramatic.

On their first day of enforcement, the new rules appeared to cut more than 25 minutes from the average game time.
Last night across the minors, the average game time for a nine-inning game was 2:38 and the median game time was 2:34. For the previous week of games, the average game time for a nine-inning game was 3:04 and the median game time was 2:59.

Data on MiLB average time of game goes back to 2005. Last night’s average of 2:38 across the full minors is faster than the average nine-inning game time for any level in any year since measurements began. At the major league level, the last time the average nine-inning game was less than 2:38 was 1985.
 

Koufax

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2:30 is about right for a baseball game. Let's hope that this gains traction. Of course beer sales might go down, so the motivation of the owners is suspect. Why worry about the survival of the game into the next decade when you can sell more beer tonight?
 

Toe Nash

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Great news. One thing about this is that for folks who have kids or are just old it makes weeknight games much more viable to attend without having to disappoint kids (and some adults) by leaving early or get home very late. That may not matter for the Red Sox who are selling out those games already but I wouldn't be surprised if it made a difference for less popular teams.

I know sometimes I've passed on free tickets for games against Kansas City or someone, just because I knew the game wouldn't end until after 10 PM, it would take an hour to get home and so I'd have to either leave early or have a rough morning the following day.
 

OBPercent1

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I was at the WooSox game yesterday and the home plate ump made 3 automatic strike calls on the batter, the players were confused at first but adjusted right away. The ump did a good job not making a big scene out of it. The real confusion was in the stands trying to keep track of what had just happened.
 

LogansDad

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We've had three automatic balls called at our stadium in the last two games. Both games finished in 2:30. As an usher who has to stay for the whole game regardless of score, I love it.
 

joe dokes

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If the rules cut back game times to an average of 2:30, MLB owners wouldn't say, "that's great," they'd say, "how about 2:40 with an extra 30 seconds between half innings for more tv ads.
 

rlcave3rd

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Nov 5, 2005
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I went to the Sea Dogs game a week ago, and despite the fact that the pitch clock was not being fully enforced (the clock ran out a few times with no automatic ball or strike calls), the game moved along quite briskly. The pitchers were staying on the mound, and the batters weren't wandering around. I am a fan of the pitch clock so far.
 

LogansDad

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I went to the Sea Dogs game a week ago, and despite the fact that the pitch clock was not being fully enforced (the clock ran out a few times with no automatic ball or strike calls), the game moved along quite briskly. The pitchers were staying on the mound, and the batters weren't wandering around. I am a fan of the pitch clock so far.
I may be wrong, but I think they jus started enforcing them Friday to give the players a time though the rotation to get used to it.
 

Spelunker

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If the rules cut back game times to an average of 2:30, MLB owners wouldn't say, "that's great," they'd say, "how about 2:40 with an extra 30 seconds between half innings for more tv ads.
Sure, but consumers would still be big winners. A marked drop in length, and- even more importantly- a much faster pace of play would be huge.
 

j-man

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i guess the time of game is around 3 15 for mlb to get it down to around 2 45 the sweet spot here is what i wouild do
1 if the batter steps out automatic stkite if the pitcher salls automatic ball
2 no mound visit in the first 7 innings
3 have upms called more strikes so that more ball are in play
have every team do what the o's are doing and move the fences back 30 feet
4 get rid of the opener make any starter have to go 4 innings or 100 pitches
 

4 6 3 DP

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Went to yesterdays game, and found Hauck to be extremely deliberate out there - not sure where he compares to other pitchers, but I found myself wanting him to speed things up...and I say that as someone who loves the game. Im not someone who tends to be overly dramatic about things, but that pace of play isn't attractive to me to want to watch games every night - if it's a playoff game or Sox/Yanks in a September pennant race I think fans can handle a slower pace but the powers that be really are putting the product at some risk by not speeding it up.
 

rlcave3rd

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Sure, but consumers would still be big winners. A marked drop in length, and- even more importantly- a much faster pace of play would be huge.
For me, the pace of play is what is most important. A slugfest may take a long time to play, but as long as the game moves along at a good clip, it is still enjoyable. Getting average game times down to 2:30 or so would be great.
 

CoffeeNerdness

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2:30 is about right for a baseball game. Let's hope that this gains traction. Of course beer sales might go down, so the motivation of the owners is suspect. Why worry about the survival of the game into the next decade when you can sell more beer tonight?
Is the beer sales cut-off time a state/city thing or is it controlled by the clubs? Right now- by my back of the napkin math- clubs can sell beer for about 2:45 a night on average, so maybe they could just work to eliminate the 7th inning cut-off time. Win-win?
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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Is the beer sales cut-off time a state/city thing or is it controlled by the clubs? Right now- by my back of the napkin math- clubs can sell beer for about 2:45 a night on average, so maybe they could just work to eliminate the 7th inning cut-off time. Win-win?
Didn't the 7th inning thing come into effect because MLB didn't want to be accused of being responsible for loaded fans driving home after games? They're not going to reverse that.
 

LogansDad

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I think I largely agree with him on the pitch clock, but I don't know about the pickoff stuff he's talking about so I can't comment on it. I have watched 10 games out here with the pitch clock now, and it is a noticeable improvement in pace, but I think that going to 16/19 and 24 seconds would benefit both sides and still keep the pace going. It will definitely be a huge adjustment for pitchers and batters, but I really think that in the long run it will benefit the game a lot.

They also started our weekday games here at 6:30 and I was home by 9:20 last night after working, which is a big improvement on the 11:30 I was getting home at last season. Of course, our team had literally the slowest pace of play in all of AA last season, so it might be more noticeable for me, LOL
 

Captaincoop

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This story from BaseballAmerica is about pitch clocks being used in the minor leagues, but considering pace of play/time of game is not specific to the minor leagues, I figured I would post it here in the MLB forums.

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/new-rules-dramatically-sped-up-last-nights-milb-games/
Minor league games are also not televised and they don't have 30 seconds or so of commercial-related fat in the inning breaks.

Has anyone ever done a breakdown of a few MLB games from, say, 1975 and compared them to games today to determine where the extra time is coming from? It seems to me that the two problems are that batters are way more focused on working counts as opposed to being aggressive early in the count, and pitchers take forever to throw a pitch today. I've clocked MLB pitchers who seem slow the last few years and there are guys routinely taking 35 seconds to throw a pitch.

The Sox game Friday night was brutal from that standpoint...a 1-0 game with a pitcher throwing a no-hitter into the 6th was over 2:30 at that point and ended over 3 hours.
 
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Saints Rest

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Minor league games are also not televised and they don't have 30 seconds or so of commercial-related fat in the inning breaks.

Has anyone ever done a breakdown of a few MLB games from, say, 1975 and compared them to games today to determine where the extra time is coming from? It seems to me that the two problems are that batters are way more focused on working counts as opposed to being aggressive early in the count, and pitchers take forever to throw a pitch today. I've clocked MLB pitchers who seem slow the last few years and there are guys routinely taking 35 seconds to throw a pitch.
This article is about 5 years old now, but the basic conclusion it drew to the question you asked, is this:
Based on one unscientific deep dive into a pair of similar games, though, the biggest problem with the pace of play is, well, the pace of play. Pitchers don’t get rid of the ball like they used to. Hitters aren’t expecting them to get rid of the ball like they used to. It adds a couple minutes to every half-inning, which adds close to a half-hour.
 

Captaincoop

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These pitchers who take forever to throw the ball are definitely a big part of the problem. No one wants to watch you screw around for 30 seconds off the mound after a called ball. Get the ball back and throw it.
 

OfTheCarmen

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Jul 18, 2007
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I found this article that seems to list the changes to pick-offs: https://www.mlb.com/news/baseball-rule-changes-tested-in-minor-leagues-in-2021

Here are the relevant parts:

THE “STEP OFF” RULE (ALL HIGH-A)
This change is aimed at increasing the number of stolen-base attempts and, perhaps, the stolen-base success rate. By forcing pitchers to fully step off the rubber before attempting a pickoff, the move by left-handed pitchers -- think Andy Pettitte -- to raise the right knee up in the delivery and then throw to first is eliminated. Snap throws followed by the step off are prohibited.

When this rule was tested in the Atlantic League in 2019, runners were more ambitious with their leads and more successful with their stolen-base attempts.
Conceivably, this change could have an impact on the pitcher-hitter dynamic, as well. If the pitcher is more mindful of the running game, he may throw more fastballs in the zone, leading to more offensive action.
PICKOFF ATTEMPT LIMITS (ALL LOW-A)
The Low-A leagues will each see a combination of rule changes, with both leagues having a limit on pickoff attempts combined with one other rule change: either pitch clocks or robo umps.
This limit on pickoff attempts has the same intent as the step off rule in the High-A leagues but with a different method. It can become monotonous when a pitcher makes throw after throw after throw to first base in a vain attempt to pick off a pesky baserunner.
This rule will limit pitchers to just two “step offs” or pickoff attempts per plate appearance. On the third attempt, if the runner is not thrown out, the move is ruled a balk and any runners are automatically awarded the next base.
Depending on the preliminary results of this change, MLB will consider further reducing the limitation to a single “step off” or pickoff per plate appearance.
I dont know if thats exactly what Davidson was referring to, but those rules seem like they might need some tweaking before they get to MLB. A combination of a limited number of step-off/pick-off attempts combined with a timer would seem to give baserunners a lot of advantage over pitchers. Now, perhaps that's the intention as many lament the high energy stolen base moments.
 

BrazilianSoxFan

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A bizarre sequence out of the Class-AA Texas League went viral over the weekend, showing the Midland RockHounds’ Jordan Diaz getting called out on an “automatic” strike with a 2-2 count because he wasn’t ready for the pitch fast enough.
A couple minor-league rules came into play there. The first being that a batter is required to keep a foot in the batter’s box at all times unless he’s granted time. Diaz did appear to have a foot in the box as he collected himself between pitches, but home plate umpire Pete Talkington appeared to rule against Diaz for a pitch clock violation.
https://ftw.usatoday.com/lists/automatic-strikeout-batter-box-pitch-clock-rule-minor-league-mlb-video-reaction
 

Joe Sixpack

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These pitchers who take forever to throw the ball are definitely a big part of the problem. No one wants to watch you screw around for 30 seconds off the mound after a called ball. Get the ball back and throw it.
When this topic first came up I went to YouTube and watched a few clips of some full game footage from the 1960s. It's really remarkable what a huge difference the pace makes.

I was watching Bob Gibson and he routinely got rid of the ball within 15 seconds just about every time. Totally different viewing experience, really keeps things moving and just much better to watch.