Redefining the “Time” in Our Nation’s Pastime

By Savannah Malnar

Baseball has a reputation as a relatively relaxing sport, the kind of sport that one enjoys on a summer day with a cold drink. Unfortunately, many people now feel that relaxed pace is boring. Games stretch to three hours long, compared to the classic days when games were roughly two and a half hours long. To counter this growing trend of long games, the owners of MLB teams have one bright idea: make the pitches come faster.

Pitch clocks were first introduced in the Arizona Fall League (an offseason league owned by the MLB where high level prospects play) in 2014 and the average game time dropped almost a full half an hour. These clocks gave the pitcher 20 seconds to get set to get the pitch off after they receive the ball from the catcher, and if they don’t, a ball is added to the batter’s count. With fast-paced culture we live in now, even that reduced game length is a good amount of time for escapism. In fact, a poll of 1,500 people conducted by a blogger for SB Nation showed that more than half of them thought the perfect length of a baseball game would be between 2:30 and 2:45 which aligns perfectly to the average produced by these pitch clocks.

So, perfect, right? Not quite. Unfortunately, MLB pitchers are not used to being rushed at the mound. While this is the case, many sport media outlets highlighted the fact that the MLB actually already has a rule in place for how quickly a pitch should be thrown. Rule 8.04 gives the umpire the right to add a ball to the batter’s count if the pitcher doesn’t pitch within 12 seconds. That’s not even accomplished by even the fastest pitcher (according to Baseball Prospectus), Mark Buehrle of Toronto, who on average gets his pitches flying within 15-16 seconds. Even farther from this official rule are many closers (which makes the end of games drag even longer) and pitchers like Cy Young winner David Price who’s pace is an average 24 seconds, longer than the proposed pitch clock allows.

A concern among the media is that this pitch clock will throw off pitchers like Price. Baseball is an extremely mental game, and these highly trained athletes all have their own routines; some just take longer than others. But it may be time to phase out the waiting game some pitchers play.

The pitch clock will be implemented in Double-A and Single-A minor league games this coming season as a trial run. If the MLB observes a reduce in game time without much sacrifice in game quality, I think we can expect to see the 20 second rule implemented in the Major leagues as soon as 2016.