Tick-tock, MLB experiments with adding a clock

file8601272057817Major League Baseball seems serious about cutting back game times that seem to get longer each year. Today, the league announced a series of experimental measures aimed at reducing the amount of wasted time at the ballpark.

In this year’s Arizona Fall League games, “no-pitch” intentional walks will be implemented, batters will be required to stay in the batter’s box (unless time is granted or some other permitted circumstance occurs), pitchers will be on a clock, and teams will be limited to three “time outs” to conference at the pitcher’s mound.

A couple of those ideas are pretty similar to rules adopted by the independent Atlantic League this year.

I like the idea of keeping batters from wandering, but by the time they reach the major leagues their habits are so ingrained that I don’t see much of a chance to make a lasting change – especially with all of the exceptions in the rule. Maybe MLB needs to work with the minor leagues to implement this change with players who are just turning pro.

I’m on board with limiting the number of “time outs” – every other sport does, and baseball’s time outs don’t even last long enough to provide a commercial break opportunity – they just slow down the game.

I hate the pitch clock. It’s an unnecessary complication that’s either going to cause confusion or be ignored.

I really hate the “no pitch” intentional walk. When the ball is in play, anything can happen – I’ve been to a game that was decided on a wild pitch during an intentional walk. Don’t make a change that affects game play for the sake of saving 20 or 30 seconds.

Other experimental rules about limiting the breaks between innings and during pitching changes aren’t even worth talking about – TV broadcasts want their commercial time, and for what they pay for broadcast rights, they’re going to get it.

But I don’t think the proposed changes go far enough. Here are a few more unsolicited ideas.

  • Stop sending the manager or a coach out to make pitching changes. We have to wait for him to walk out, chat with his pitcher and take the ball before the reliever starts his trip in from the bullpen. It’s wasted time. Have managers immediately signal the home plate umpire that they are making the change.
  • On replay review calls, make the manager immediately announce his challenge. Stop stalling while a video coordinator watches the TV broadcast in the clubhouse to signal “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on whether a play is worth officially challenging. It wastes time and it’s really not helping most managers make smart challenges.
  • Also on review calls, ditch the 1980s head sets that the umpires have to go put on. It’s the 21st century – there should be some wireless solution that they could be wearing all game.

Are MLB games too long? What do you think of the new rules MLB plans to test out in the Arizona Fall League this year?  

About Paul

NY Mets enthusiast, toy collector, amateur gardener, Christian. I like to take pictures & write things.

Posted on October 1, 2014, in Baseball and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Paul,

    Though I like the high school mound visit rule (three visits, all in one inning, if that’s what you want, and you have to remove the pitcher on the fourth and every subsequent one and pitching changes and offensive conferences don’t count), those changes won’t do much.

    The biggest change is something that out of everyone’s control at this point. And that’s pitching to contact. Strikeouts are as high as they’ve ever been and the walk counts among many relief pitchers border on the appalling. Both mean that lots more pitches will be thrown. And, lots more pitches equals longer games.

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    • I agree on both points, Mark. One other change (again, not really viable to address at this point) is the number of relief pitchers used. When teams routinely use two and three pitchers to secure three outs in an inning, it takes more time. And with starters no longer expected to pitch deep into games, they have little incentive to pitch to contact to preserve their energy (which contributes to the strikeout focus just like modern hitting approaches do.)

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