MLB Sports

MLB makes strides to shorten game time

MLB pace of play
Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball made strides towards bringing down game time this week. Some of the rules put in place include only six mound visits a game, shortening time between innings, timing pitching changes and monitoring instant replays more closely.

Trouble finding common ground

MLB pace of play
Tensions between the the players and MLB are largely thanks to Scott Boras and the free agent market. (Photo from Bleacher Report)
What is interesting about the current process is that Manfred is open to pretty much anything. Since taking the position of commissioner, Manfred has made it known that pace of play will be a big focus during his tenure. The problem for him is that he is getting pushback from the players association.
In 2016, the MLB told players to keep one foot in the batters box at all times. This would limit the time used up by players taking their time in between pitches. At first, the players went along with it and honored the new rule.
However, in 2017, they were more reluctant to playing along with the new rules. We did not see players honor the one foot in the batters box rule nearly as much.
Manfred has expressed interest in reaching common ground on the matter. The goal at the moment is for them to get the average game time down to 2 hours and 55 minutes in 2018. The league hopes that the measures they are taking will get the job done.
The reason why the league is focusing so much on pace of play is because they want to bring in a younger audience. The average teenager or young adult does not want to sit down and watch baseball for over three hours on television. Speeding up play is the best way to re-engage a younger fan base.
Manfred has become open to hearing what the players have to say. Rather than going to extreme lengths and changing the game, he is open to all sorts of ideas. The thought is that the league and players work together in order to solve a problem that faces baseball as a whole. The only problem is that tensions between the two are the highest since the strike in the mid-90s.

Will a pitch clock be implemented?

MLB pace of play
The pitch clock has already been tested at the minor league level (Photo from MiLB.com)

For the time being, no. However, that does not mean that it is still not on the forefront of their minds. A pitch clock seems like the best way to shorten games, but the players are giving this idea a lot of push back.

A solid argument against the pitch clock, mentioned by Jayson Stark of ESPN, is that players are already pitching under the 20 second mark that would be on a pitch clock. Out of 155 starting pitchers that threw over 750 pitches, only three averaged more than 20.9 seconds per pitch with no one on base. Those three were Sonny Gray, Matt Garza and Yu Darvish.

The issue with this is that it does not factor in runners on base or relievers, which would be an interesting stat to look at. The later parts of the games tend to take longer due to the heightened circumstances. Either way, this does not completely discredit the argument for a pitch clock to shorten game time.

What else can be done?

The fact that the MLB is shortening time between innings means that they are very serious about fixing this problem. They are sacrificing a fair share of revenue if they are cutting down the amount of air time sponsors get between innings.

Some other measures that baseball can take are limiting the amount of pitching changes, cutting down mound visits even more or potentially putting on a runner at second to start out every inning in extras.

These solutions are all one that could potentially change the game fundamentally. The problem is that the game may have to change in those sort of ways in order to make this work. It would be ideal if game time was closer to two hours and 45 minutes within the next ten years. Whether or not it is will be up to how the players react to it though.

 

Featured image from CBS Sports

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