Can we speed up the MLB game?

Can we speed up the MLB game?

The internet has gotten us super-connected to one another these days, but there is so much content out there that we're sometimes overwhelmed by input and don't see something interesting until a topic takes its "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" turn.  In today's case, well, yes I knew that Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals (who, by the way, probably should have been named an All-Star) said that baseball was long and boring.

On the one hand, this is the game that we all enjoy watching, so the more baseball, the better.  On the other hand, even the most die-hard of fans will notice when a Yankees-Red Sox game has dragged on just a bit too long, and perhaps we can't begrudge the fans who give up and bail after 13+ innings with no end in sight.  I think baseball is great because it does not use a standard clock, but rather is timed by the frequency of outs made by either team.  However, it's not a bad idea to try to eliminate some unnecessary delays in the game and move it along.  There is something to be said for gamesmanship in a batter and a pitcher trying to disrupt each other's timing, but there has to be a reasonable limit to what they're allowed to do.

So I read from Bill Baer (now writing for HardballTalk) that Buster Olney had written an Insider article which Deadspin decided to spoil a bit for us.  The rules changes were proposed and adopted for the Atlantic League, an independent league, in order to pick up the pace of a game.  There were some penalties involved in enforcing certain time limits.  I should point out that Rule 6.02 gives the umpire the liberty to call a strike whenever the batter causes an unnecessary delay, and Rule 8.04 specifically states a 12-second pitch clock between the pitcher receiving the ball and delivering the next pitch.  There seems to be too much leeway and umpire discretion in both rules, so the rules changes adopted by the Atlantic League, while draconian, actually serve to enforce existing rules.

Bill makes a good point that the part of the delay set by commercials (necessary for funding MLB games and lining owner pocketbooks so understandable) won't change.  But by simply enforcing the two rules above, the game can avoid unnecessary stepping in/stepping out of the batter's box, lengthy meetings on the mound, and help shave lots of time off current average baseball game lengths.  The ultimate length of the game will still be determined by how many runs are scored and how efficiently outs are converted, but there will be far less random delays and the fans may appreciate a game with better flow.

There is something to be said for having enough time between pitches to go to the refrigerator to grab another beer, but if you can squeeze a potty break in that time, then perhaps it's not such a bad idea to at least enforce the rules that are already there.  You can't stop commercials (and the 8-pitch warm-up allowance is designed to give networks a two-minute window to play their ads), but the game in between the product shilling will be vastly improved.

MLB certainly doesn't have to adopt the pinch-runner-for-the-catcher rule (that's so high school) but I'm curious as to what ideas other folks have.  I'd love to see an actual pitch clock embedded somewhere in the backstop, sort of like a basketball shot clock or the football play clock.  Just keep the pitcher and batter apprised of how much time they don't get to waste anymore.

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  • 1. Listening to the game on the radio exemplifies how much dead time there is between pitches. Between Pat and Coomer talking about food and Pat's bad sweaters, and Farmio and DJ talking about pitchers and hitters they faced in the 90s, dead and sick people, people born in Northbrook or Palos Heights, etc. not to mention that each pitch, walk, extra inning, etc. is brought to you by some car, pizza, or beer,* the pitch clock should be enforced. Could you imagine that on basketball or hockey broadcasts?
    2. In the 80s there was the debate whether the batter should just be waved to 1st for an intentional walk, instead of throwing the 4 pitches. Apparently that has been forgotten.
    3. There seems now more of sending the pitcher out to start the inning, and then, after he warms up, the manager going out to bring in the reliever, instead of the reliever coming in at the top of the inning. That adds about another 5 minutes. If a pitcher comes out, he should have to pitch to one batter, unless a pinch hitter is thrown in there.
    4. Even on TV, there is too much time between pitches if there is time to insert the small bug for Wrigleyville Rooftops or Robin and Larry on the Morning News.
    *Don't forget, CBS radio gets the Cubs next season. I bet they use the same methods to make up what they outbid WGN.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, you can't prevent the TV timeouts or the sponsorship stuff, but you can try to clamp down on the delays during game action. It'll force managers and teams to adapt strategy-wise but I think they'll deal. I do enjoy the broadcaster stories though, and that's something that makes baseball broadcasts so unique and fun. I'm sure they'll have to adapt too if time-enforcement rules are mandated though.

  • In reply to Rice Cube:

    On broadcaster stories, I got out of the fitness center just to tune in when Pat was saying something about CN Tower. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how that was relevant to a game against the Cardinals. And then he has all the "that's out #3, and we'll return to this after the break" and usually doesn't. I don't know if that's because there is no action on the field, but I bet it is.

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    I watch a lot of AL East baseball as well, home of the slowest games in the bigs. The one thing that jumps out to me is the amount of pitcher/catcher conferences. They should limit it to 2 or 3 per inning, or at the very least 1 meeting per batter. This would be very easy to implement

  • In reply to NaughtyJohnny:

    I agree, they should know their signs and the game plan in most situations anyway so those conferences should be limited.

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