Nearly two months into baseball’s pitch clock era, we sometimes wonder how baseball has slowed down so much. Why did we have to endure the traffic when it should have gone more smoothly?
“It was the Red Sox and the Yankees,” Seattle Mariners manager Scott Serves said last week before a game at Fenway Park in Boston. ‘ he said with a smile. “So it was four hours every night. Normally he was just 4-2 games but he was three hours and 40 minutes. It sped things up a lot.”
The game Servais’ team played that night didn’t recall the prose of Angel or Updike. Mariners pitchers allowed 16 hits and 12 runs, while Red Sox pitchers gave eight walks. Two hitters, three errors, 10 pitchers, and 19 runners remained on base. Still, the time required was just 2 hours and 57 minutes, which was quicker than the average game in the major leagues of the past seven of his seasons.
“The first five innings of the game go by quickly,” Servais said. “I got two or three hits, and they got two or three hits, and when I looked up, it was five innings, and less than an hour had passed. There are nights when I think,
In fact, a few days later on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” (the infamous Red Sox-Yankees marathon), the Mets and Cleveland Guardians set the fastest “Sunday Night” time of 2:06. I scored with The first baseball game in eight years.
For veterans, the pitch clock—the most notable of several rule changes in Major League Baseball this season—requires a recalibration of the sport’s familiar rhythms. However, the results cannot be ignored. The nine-inning game averaged 2 hours and 37 minutes through Monday, the fastest pace in MLB since 1984. Last season, after the same number of days, the average time was 3 hours. 5 minutes.
Until 2014, the average time in a nine-inning game had never reached three hours. It dropped slightly in 2015, but since then he’s been on at least three hours. Think of MLB as generous parents suddenly becoming strict. The kids stayed out too late and now there is a curfew. With no bases he has 15 seconds and with runners on base he has 20 seconds.
“If there was a way to give pace without a clock, we would have done it 20 years ago,” said Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball operations at MLB.
“We started the first day of spring training with all these new rules strictly enforced and we knew it was the best way to help our players through the adjustment period and get to the other side. I could feel it,” Sword continued. “And as we’ve seen in the minor leagues, once on the opposing side, fouls occur in less than half the game and aren’t a big part of the competition. I can feel the benefits.”
Sword said the rule change worked as MLB intended. With larger bases and a limit on pickoff attempts per at-bat, there were a maximum of 1.8 stolen base attempts per game, the most since 2012, and a record 78.7 percent success rate. With a ban on defensive shifts that put more than two infielders on either side of the diamond, his on-play batting average hit .
“I can’t hide my second baseman during the shift anymore,” Red Sox shortstop Quique Hernandez said. “I feel like there were a lot of very aggressive second basemen who didn’t necessarily defend their position very well, but they were hiding in the shift and they were able to get away with playing second base. This time. , and I have to improve my athletic ability a little more.”
In a way, this shift was like a cheat code. The data indicated where hitters were most likely to hit the ball, so the defense positioned accordingly. Without a shift, an intuitive infielder who is passionate about preparation has an advantage.
“I like the spacing of the defense right now. It’s so pure,” said Seattle’s Kolten Wong, a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base. “You really have to pay attention to pitch calls, batting tendencies, what players are trying to do in certain situations. It makes the game more interesting.”
Wong, a left-handed hitter, doesn’t see any advantage offensively. He’s batting less than .200. But overall, the left-hander put him 37 points higher on Prugolo and 28 points higher on Pullline Drive. Future generations of left-handers may never know the anxieties of their predecessors.
“It was a nightmare,” said former outfielder Matt Joyce, who batted .242 in his 14-year career through 2021. The argument for me was that if it had the same effect on right-handers, it was OK. But you basically just killed the left-handed hitter, which was clearly not fair. There are many more holes, so they are definitely rewarded for making good contact now. ”
Joyce is currently a television analyst for the home-grown Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays had 53 stolen bases by Monday, tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the most stolen bases in MLB history.
Clearly, the five teams with the lowest salaries this season — Oakland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Cleveland — are also the five teams with the most stolen bases. Cheaper players tend to be younger, and younger players tend to be faster. Low-salary teams have another weapon in their arsenal, as their chances of stealing success increase.
“Tariq Brock is in charge of running our bases and he started emailing me as soon as I thought this rule was going to be enforced,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of the team’s first base coach. Mentioned. “It has affected your personnel because we have young, athletic players who have played within these rules for a little while, so they know what’s going on with them. The message at the start of spring training was to “run the bases aggressively.”
The Pirates struggled in May, but were tied with Milwaukee for first place in the National League Central by Monday. The Rays, on the other hand, were the best team in the majors despite losing two of their starting pitchers, left-hander Jeffrey Springs and right-hander Drew Rasmussen, to arm injuries.
Questions remain as to whether the fast pace is affecting player health.
Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said the pitch clock in general and before Rasmussen’s injury said the rushed pace clashes with modern pitching approaches.
“I do powerlifting every 15 seconds,” Snyder said. “That’s all they have.”
A pitcher can reset the clock by removing the rubber twice each at-bat, but only if there are runners on base. They have a few other tricks here and there to gain a few seconds, but nothing that significantly alters your mental or physical pace.
Boston relief pitcher Richard Breyer said, “It’s important to slow down the pace of the game when you’re in a pinch, but you don’t really get the chance to do that.” “Throw a lot of balls into the dugout and they’ll say no.”
Former starter Chicago White Sox reliever Joe Kelly predicted a “surge” of starter injuries in spring training. That’s because their muscles need more time to recover between pitches than they’ll allow. It hasn’t happened yet, but maybe it’s a matter of perspective.
Between spring training and regular-season Day 55 (Monday), pitchers were on the disabled list 232 times, compared with 204 last year. But again, due to lockouts, spring training for 2022 has been cut short. From Day 2 to Day 55 of this regular season, pitcher IL placements decreased slightly from 111 to 109.
“The best predictor of injury is past injury. Today’s roster has more pitchers with more serious injury histories than in baseball history, so it kind of snowballs. It’s happening,” Sword said.
“But the emergence of the most effort, high-speed, high-spin pitching styles in recent decades has also been correlated with injury,” he added. Combined, you’ll definitely see some gains in the long run. I don’t think there is strong evidence to support any significant change this year compared to previous years. ”
It will take years to assess the true impact of the new rules. Will finesse pitching become more popular now that power pitching has become more difficult? With less time on the field, will position players feel stronger as the season progresses? With more appealing products, attendance has increased by 6% since the same point last year, and will it continue?
What we already know is that a huge amount of wasted time has passed and no one wants it back. Removing weeds from your garden creates room for more good things to grow.
“Pace aside, this product is cleaner,” said Mets radio voice Howie Rose. “Players still strike out too many, pitchers still walk too many, players still try to drag the ball out of the park. But the ball is always sent, whether it’s in play or not. It just makes you feel better, and for me, that’s really welcome.”