Among the recently-discussed pace of play measures tested out in the Arizona Fall League, the “pitch clock” was easily the most controversial. Things like keeping the batter in the box, limiting extraneous mound visits, tightening inning changes, and getting relievers to the mound more quickly are all pretty well accepted as minor inconveniences if they improve the pace of baseball’s games, which have grown absurdly long and ill-paced.
But the clock, well, it feels different. Baseball, of course, being a game without a clock, isn’t supposed to be pressed for time in the same way that other sports are. So, in that regard, I get the resistance.
On the other hand, it’s not like there isn’t already a rule that says the pitcher should deliver the ball within 12 seconds (which no one does). And the pitch clock that was used in the AFL was for 20 seconds. So it wasn’t even that much of a rush, at least by the spirit of the rule. The impact, according to various reports back in the Fall, was pretty significant, shaving some 20 to 30 minutes off of the time of the games (together with the other changes, though the pitch clock appears to have been the big one).
That all said, no one is expecting the pitch clock to be implemented at the MLB level for 2015, if ever. But Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report that the owners are negotiating pace of play changes with the players union (the owners are meeting this week), and that will include a push to add the pitch clock at the AA and AAA levels in the minor leagues. Robert Murray previously reported on the pitch clock proposal, as well, so this looks to be something that is going to happen.
If the pitch clocks come to the upper minors, you’d have to think the idea would not only be about testing the experience at a broader level, but also about getting future big leaguers comfortable with the clock. In other words, it’s hard not to see this as the first step in an eventual clock at the big league level. For me, I don’t hate it.
Jayson Stark writes an excellent piece about all of the pace of play issues and possible changes, which is well worth a read. Times are changing, and although everyone here reading this today loves baseball mostly as it is, the long-term health of the sport is going to require renewed interest among younger fans. And those younger fans – let’s be honest and grandfatherly – love them some fast-paced stuff. Baseball, at its core, might never be the next Snapchat, but it could certainly do some things to increase the chances of hooking more fans while they’re young.
(Aside: The frequent complaint you hear from pitchers about the pitch clock is that they don’t want to feel rushed. Presumably, they fear that if they are rushed, they will not perform as well. To which I say … well, we are in a period of declining offense, which is also less exciting to the more casual and younger fans, so maybe adding the pitch clock helps kill two birds with one stone.)