I’m not necessarily on board with all these new changes headed for baseball, but it looks like at least one thing seems to be working beautifully so far: pitch clocks. This isn’t something all that new, either, for college baseball started using them as far back as 2010, and they’ve been in the minors since 2015 (after debuting in the Arizona Fall League the previous season). The pitch clock has been around a while, so there’s plenty of data to determine whether it works or not.
I’ve been to three Double-A games so far this season, and I’ll admit, the games seem to go much faster. I haven’t really seen the pitch clock enforced yet, but just its existence in general appears to speed up at-bats. And apparently it’s not just anecdotal.
According to an excerpt from Craig Calcaterra’s Cup of Coffee newsletter, which was plugged by FanGraphs this morning, in over 132 minor league games so far in 2022 (through last Sunday), the average game time has been 2 hours, 39 minutes – which is 20 minutes less than a control set of 335 games without the pitch clock in 2021. Also per Calcaterra, only 15% of games this season exceeded three hours, compared to 52% of games last season. That’s a substantial difference.
And a lot of people are noticing too. Just in the last few days, numerous national sites have published articles about how pitch clocks are working, including places like SB Nation and The Athletic.
With the new CBA now into effect, MLB does have the power to impose rule changes, as long as there’s a 45-day notice. But as Calcaterra notes, it’s probably unlikely, both for technical reasons and out of an interest in not disrupting an in-progress season. That of course makes sense. It’s probably not wise to change something so significant in the middle of an active season.
But like many are counting on, it seems fair to assume that if minor league games continue consistently to finish well below three hours, pitch clocks are probably a guarantee in the near future. In fact, in the aforementioned CBA, the agreement includes a pitch clock “that may” begin during the 2023 MLB season, with four active players, six persons appointed by the league and one umpire that’s responsible for forming a committee to adopt rule changes for such matters. If not next season, it looks like the ’23 campaign is a very likely start date for a pitch clock in the majors.
Maybe it’s finally time. I mean, 14 seconds – with no baserunners – should be plenty of time for a pitcher and batter to get ready for the next pitch, right? And 18 seconds – with baserunners – seems fair as well. Although it’s not so much about game length, even if it’s obviously impacted by a timer. It’s more about the pace of the game, which can oftentimes unnecessarily drag on. I don’t know about bigger bases, robo umps and moving the mound back, but when it comes to the pitch clock, I think I’m ready for a change. And at least with this, we know that it’s working.