Pace Of Play The Right Way

As we get ready to ramp up into spring training games, and all our thoughts about "this guy's slider looks flat," and "I don't like his new stance," and watch some young go-hard come up with eight homers against guys who'll be holding a squeegee soon, one thing that will be discussed is baseball's new pace of play initiatives.

The big one is that a team will only be "allowed" six mound-visits per nine innings. This is the in the same way a team is only "allowed" one challenge per game, except after the 7th you can request, which isn't the same thing apparently and no please don't ask why it's different it just is and that's final, ok? Umpires will have the discretion to allow more mound visits, which is going to end in a hilarious stare-down at some point between Willson Contreras and like, Joe West and I hope it involves West trying to physically stop Contreras from going out there. And then Willson will be forced to yell what he wants the pitcher to throw while covering his mouth with his glove. It's going to be glorious.

There are some other things of course. They're going to try and start the between-inning clock a little earlier, getting hitters into the box, and replay tweaks. I suppose this is all well and good except it just gets around the edges. And I don't think a pitch-clock would help much.

What baseball seems unwilling to do is to get more baseball into its games, if I can borrow a line from Joe Sheehan. I don't know that games really took all that long last year, and if MLB's hope is to get games back under two-and-a-half hours, I think that's probably forlorn hope. Really anything around three hours, just on either side, I think is fine with most fans.

Baseball's problem is that whatever length of time these games take, not much happens in them. With the strikeout-culture we have now, every AB goes four, five, six pitches as the hitters chase walks and the pitchers chase strikeouts. And then we get a lot of homers, which doesn't provide much chance to get outs on the bases. It lessens double plays and caught-stealings and the like.

Baseball is worried about being a watch for the younger generations, and that's a concern given what the average baseball fan looks like these days. But shortening the game isn't the answer. Speeding up time between pitches isn't really the answer either. It's that the perception is you're going to tune in and watch two guys playing catch. Hey, a big strikeout in the sixth or seventh with two on base and a one-run game is exciting. One to lead off the third isn't really.

What baseball needs is more plays, more chances for the athletes in the field to show you why they're athletes and not just glorified spectators waiting for their next AB. You want Lindor, Baez, Keirmaier, Bradley Jr., Trout, and whoever else covering ground in the field. Show the whole game.

To get that, it's the strike zone. Thinning it out to the corners again, and not the flat large pizza it's basically become, speeds up ABs. Hitters can get to more, pitchers have to get to them. Knowing that they can't simply duck and weave on the fringes, pitcher will have to get to contact more. You'll see ABs go from six and seven pitches to four and five. You'll cut 10-20 seconds off every AB or close to it. Imagine cutting 10-12 minutes off that way.

But until then. this is all window dressing. Though hey, I'm here for the delicious arguments it's going to start between stubborn players not wanting to change their ways and umps wanting to flex... well, flex something.

 

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    I've never gone to a baseball game and thought that it was taking too long.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Ditto Ray.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Exactly......
    For years it was getting on the train in Crystal Lake or Barrington, getting off at Jefferson Park, hopping on the bus down to where the nuns rented out space for people to park, walking the rest of the way into the park in time to hopefully catch some of the BP, then the game and then repeating the process to get back home.
    Will I ever care about how long a game is? Never

  • Right on about the Strike Zone especially Sam. I like watching a dramatic strikeout as much as the next guy too - but do more to put more balls in play, and then we get to watch base-runners do their thing more, more solid (and not so solid) defensive plays, and potentially more runs.

    Quicker? - More than likely. But more action as well.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    This is the first time that my robo-ump rant will be offered in February, but I'm wearied, not by length of games, but by watching good hitters and pitchers being cheated by a system where human umpires are tasked with doing an impossible job. If we can do laser eye and brain surgery, drive cars unattended, and tell within millimeters where we are standing on planet earth, we can develop a robot umpire.

    Watch for repeats of this simple observation as the season progresses.

  • As a season ticket holder for 20 years, I definitely agree the games are too long. Especially when you're headed into the top of 9th inning and rounding 10:15pm on a 41 degree Tuesday night in April. But you hit on it Sam, if you want to speed up the games a bit (and arguably make them more interesting) call the strike zone as written in the rule book.

    The mound visit thing in particular is completely ridiculous. Seems like a rule designed for minimal impact with maximum unintended consequences. How soon before a Manager issues a challenge over whether what their opponent just did constitutes a mound visit? Can't wait to see the replays on that. Should be riveting...

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    You think the games are too long, but in your example I can’t help but think there is hardly a difference between 9:45 and 10:15. Those 30 mins are the golden egg MLB is searching for to speed up the game. It’s plain craziness in my mind what they are trying to do.

  • To speed the games it is simple:

    Players hustle to their positions between innings. Pitchers and catcher hustle to their spots. 8 warm up pitches and let’s go!!!!!

    TV sponsors can go pound sand. Split screen with commercials on one side and game action on the other side when the inning starts before the slated commercials run. Other sporting events are already doing this.

    MLB is really just whiffing like the players are doing in record numbers. To take the only mainstream game without a clock, which is inherent in the game, and to begin to institute one is about the dumbest idea ever. Makes you wonder what the heck is going on in the NY offices. They just don’t get it.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    The reality is there's not much that can be done to speed up the game. Advertisers require a minimum of two minutes between innings so they can run 4 commercials (split screen ain't happening) and even more once the playoffs start. Beyond that, the game has just changed too much with the three true outcomes (HR, SO, and BB) as well as the endless parade of relief pitchers, etc.

    About the only thing that could be done to meaningfully speed up the games and maintain (or actually increase to be more precise) the game's integrity is to enforce the strike zone as written. And the impact of that is unknown at best. And if they're not going to do that, then at least re-write the rule book to match the way game is called. At least then you could start from an honest baseline if you want to truly try and tackle that issue later on.

    And yes, I'd say not having to spend an extra 30 minutes in 41 degree weather makes an enormous difference. But I live in LA now so those 41 degree nights are a thing of the past for me LOL.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    If you are in LA now, you leave around the 7th inning, so the games are a lot shorter. LOL.

    How does calling the strike zone as intended speed up the game. I don’t agree with the strike zone to be called as the “book” says because beginning to call high strikes will definitely increase the K rate. With more and more staffs having guys throwing 95+, the hitters would have a difficult time making contact with letter high pitches.

    I maintain the downtime between innings is the biggest change in the last 20-30 years and is very responsible for the game length.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    That IS the clear cut difference in the length of games....the commercial time on television in between innings then also the coddling of starting pitchers to protect the huge investment in them using more relief pitchers necessitating more in game changes.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Another advantage of the robo-ump is that it could be adjusted periodically if different outcomes are desired (not that I'd recommend frequent adjustments). The DH and the lowering of the pitchers mound are the only discrete "physical" changes changes that I can recall, and the same desired outcomes could be achieved today by changing a robo-ump's programming of the strike zone..

  • Might have to come up with a new stat Most extra mound visits allowed. I;m sure Molina will lead the league.

  • I am on the West coast so I don't care how late the game goes.
    As long as Len and Jim are talking about baseball I am enjoying the game,
    Extra innings I still get to bed on time.

    If the pitcher is moping around put the camera on Baez.

  • I think games started getting longer when pitchers started trying to strike everyone out, and hitters began trying to hit every ball out. Pitchers try to throw harder but can't control it, so they start walking batters. The ones who can't throw harder try to nibble corners because they are afraid of the homerun. This all leads to the 3 run homerun instead of the solo shot. It should be the walk they are more afraid of, but the homerun is what gets shown on ESPN and MLB Network. The result is at bats take longer because of the high pitch counts. More pitching changes occur since the starter can't go as long because of their high pitch counts. Also, since they are putting runners on who did not earn a hit, it increased the number of baserunners which requires more pitching changes. To me the most boring and frustrating part of baseball is watching a pitcher who can't get anything over the plate, throw an off speed pitch or overthrow a pitch that he can't control, worrying more about the homerun instead of the walk. Not saying I have a quick answer, but they should look at WHY the game is taking so much longer to play now.

  • In reply to MessyMarv:

    MLB has only itself to blame. Home runs are the way to glory - and to big contracts. The All-Star game used to be a one-day event, but now there's - what else? - a home run derby. I'd much rather see a hitting exhibition that involves hitting to all fields, laying down a bunt, hitting a soft liner over the head of a charging infielder, skills that require bat control, but those skills have taken a distant second to the ability to pound the ball over the fence. Any number of strikeouts is acceptable if enough dingers are hit.

  • The endless catcher visits to the mound were definitely a pet peeve of mine. Sometimes it would be multiple times per batter. It completely ground that game to a halt. So I love that change.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I’d go farther. No pitching coach visits. Treated it like tennis: no coaching.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Exactly.

  • I love the game as it is right now. It is supposed to be a meditative game for the thinking fan. Don't screw with it.

  • MLB is still trying to shorten the game. Even extra inning games will be shortened. Leave the game alone! They don't pitch all four pitches in an intentional walk. Here's my idea. Cut the time in between innings. It shouldn't take 3 minutes of commercial time to have both teams exchange places on the field.
    It might piss off the advertisers. Oops. That's almost 30 minutes they could save. It doesn't take 3 minutes to put on catcher's gear, or run into the dugout to go #1.

  • How about this.....

    Remember in 2016 it was really publicized how much more and how well Cub hitters went “deeper” into counts and everyone raved about it? Takes longer to do that doesnt it?

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    Take the calling of balls and strikes away from the umps--get that call right. Also, put a clock on the time of replay review. If the office can't tell within a min have the ump's call stand. I want instant replay because I want the right call, but how long does it take? That would reduce the time of the game without taking the joy out of it.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Though it probably would not have much effect on the length of games, big picture, a clock on the time of replay is a must! Isn't it a bit hypocritical of MLB to add the replay, with zero time allotment, and then blame pitchers for being too slow and wanting a pitch clock?

    The replay rule as instigated states that a play can only be overturned if there is obvious proof that the call on the field was wrong. Well, how much time do the replay umps get to find the "obvious" proof? We all get to watch the replays and more often than not, it is pretty clear if the call should stand or not within 30 seconds to 1 minute. If they have to replay the call over and over and over, if it is that close of a play, then it shouldn't be overturned! There should be a replay clock -- 90 seconds? 2 minutes, max! -- and if the call cannot be proved wrong in that time allotment, then it stands and get back to the game.

  • It's official. I hate the spam filter...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It just speeds up the reading of the reply section (;-).

  • I like the idea of the batter keeping one foot in the box. It's boring watching a hitter take his batting gloves on and off, mugging for the camera. Batters would adjust and pitchers would not stand around the mound waiting.

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    Agree wholeheartedly to robo ump,pitches that are missed usually create longer at bats, hurts the pitcher when calls on the corners or high strikes are missed, hitters are more apt to take more pitches when they get favorable calls.
    when pitches are called according to automated zones you have no one to argue with, games would move more efficiently..

  • In reply to tater:

    The other thing that Robo Ump helps is that it effectively squashes any resistance to the implementation of a larger strike zone. I seem to remember a few years back that there was an attempt to make the umpires call the strike zone as written in the rulebook, watched everyone struggle with it during Spring Training, and then the umpires slowly settle back their "regular" zone what they used to do (Does anyone else remember this? My memory isn't great...) Robo Ump would not allow any such resistance.

  • In reply to tater:

    Exactly right. Robo-ump is by far the best way to get the strike zone called as intended and would speed things along for the reasons you suggest.

  • In general, there is too much down time between pitches in baseball. Players shouldn't need to force the administration to add clocks or new rules. Play the game, stop standing around, put on your batting gloves and leave them on, get the sign and pitch the ball. It's not just the length of the game, but the enjoyment of watching the game. Watching grown men stand around just isn't that entertaining.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    To clarify further, I'm a baseball traditionalist. I'm not pining for robo umps so much as noting that the game of baseball has a rhythm to it. The modern game has lost that rhythm and we need to get it back. Players should be supporting the commissioner, not resisting.

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