The Best Way to Speed Up Pace of Play in Baseball

Rob Manfred, The Commissioner of the MLB, has made it his mission to speed up the timeless game of baseball. The average length of a Major League Baseball game has been consistently increasing since 2006.

In 2006 the average length of a Major League game was about 2 hours and 47 minutes and last year the average length of a game this year was 3 hours 5 minutes and 11 seconds. That’s an 18 minute increase in just 11 years which may not seem like a lot but with today’s youth having extremely short attention spans it is imperative that the MLB speed up the game.

The past few weeks the Players Union and Rob Manfred have been meeting to discuss Manfred’s ideas to speed up the game.

The pace of play initiatives that Commissioner Manfred would like to put in place includes a 20 second pitch clock which would start once the pitcher receives the ball and the batter would have 5 seconds to be in the box, the clock will stop once the pitcher becomes set. The second rule that Manfred wants to put in place is a limitation of mound visits: one per pitcher per inning.

These rules can be put in place by the Commissioner without the approval from the Players Union and with the pushback from the union it seems like that may be the outcome.

While those ideas are interesting they simply won’t speed up the game as much as MLB officials say. They claim that the pitch clock will shave 10 minutes off of an average game, I mean come on do they even watch? I personally am a baseball junky, I watch about 140 Mets games a year and probably about 20 other games throughout the course of the season and I know that 10 minutes being shaved off of a game from a pitch clock is bogus.

Will limited mound visits and a 20 second pitch clock speed up the game? Of course, but the pitch clock will take away from the beauty of the pitcher-hitter battle.

Watching countless games of the Mets on SNY has allowed me to listen to Keith Hernandez, one of the better hitters of his time, talk about ways to get pitchers out of their groove by stepping out of the box, taking his time to get in the box, and countless other ways. With a pitch clock, players will not be able to play those tricks and pitchers will have an advantage they never had before.

I have no complaint about limiting mound visits but I do think that a position player in the infield (including the catcher) should be able to talk to the pitcher once and the pitching coach should also be allowed to talk to the pitcher once before they have to be taken out.

At the end of the day, these options are simply not the answer but luckily for baseball, I do have the answer.

First off, the replays have to go. I’m sorry but the system baseball has in play simply doesn’t work and it slows down the game. If MLB officials really want to keep replay challenges then they are more than welcome to read my article from last February where I outlined a more efficient system that can save time as well as improve the game.

The real time saver that might be able to actually speed up the game is how pitching changes in the same inning are handled. In today’s game, there are more pitching changes than ever before because most starters can’t go past the 6th inning and managers always want the “right” matchup so relievers face one batter and come out of the game.

When managers make a pitching change the relievers come out of the bullpen, run onto the field and warm up while television broadcasts go to break for at least 1 minute. In some games, there are 5-10 pitching changes made during an inning and all of those relievers come out of the bullpen they were warming up in to throw more warm-up pitches.

What I propose is the manager has to call the bullpen and say who they want in the game and once they step on the field to make the change that reliever is to run onto the pitcher’s mound. At that point, the manager can hand him the ball and head right to the dugout. Once the manager gets back in the dugout it is time to play ball again, no 8-10 warmup pitches just the game.

In games that only have 4-5 total pitchers this won’t speed up the game much, but when each team only uses 2-3 pitchers the game is usually moving pretty fast. However, when there are 10-20 pitchers in a game this might actually save 5-10 minutes on average.

This in conjunction with limited mound visits can speed up the game without affecting its timeless nature and the only change would be those relievers would have to throw those extra warmup pitches in the bullpen and managers may be less inclined to make so many pitching changes.

The biggest loss the owners would feel from this is the money they make on those minute-long commercial breaks.

Personally, I don’t care how long the games take but I know for younger kids the amount of dead time there is in baseball is too much to enjoy it.

If Rob Manfred and the owners are serious about speeding up the game they should listen to me, I mean I’m 19 and watch as much baseball as anyone, I know it can be boring so limit the time in between innings, change the replay review system, and change how relievers are brought into games. It may affect their bottom line to start but they might not have a bottom line in a few years if a change isn’t made.

January 20, 2018

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