Perhaps in an effort to make the smoothest changes first, it sounds like MLB’s first pace-of-play rule change focus is going to be shortening the time between innings. Other possible changes could be in place as well, as we’ve discussed, but Jayson Stark writes that this particular one is finding some common ground between MLB and the players.
Commercial breaks between innings for non-nationally-televised games last 2 minute and 5 seconds, but the break between innings is frequently much longer – as much as three minutes or more. Tightening that up a bit could have a significant impact on the total length of games, which have swelled to well over three hours. (Note the distinction here between length of games (an issue) and pace of play (a separate issue). This would seem to go a little more to the former than the latter, but that’s fine by me.)
In order to shorten the inning breaks, sources tell Stark that pitchers would be required to be ready to throw their first pitch 30 seconds before the end of the between-inning commercial break, and batters would have to be ready to bat 20 seconds before the end of the break. It’s not entirely clear what would then happen in those 20 seconds before TV actually resumes coverage, but presumably it would mean that play begins immediately upon returning from break.
In terms of total impact on time, this is probably one of the bigger ones, together with speeding up the slower pitchers in the game (which could come by way of the pitch clock, eventually). Here’s hoping the sides agree to it, because it should make the viewing experience both on TV and in the ballpark much crisper, and could dramatically reduce the volume of dead time in a game that helps push it beyond three hours.