At this time last year, “Pace of Play” was probably the biggest story within the peripheral arguably-non-baseball side of baseball. Aware of an existing length and pacing problem, MLB took action to correct the issue. First, they formed a pace of play committee, that was tasked to study and improve the pace of the game. Then, the committee came up with several new rules that were eventually tested out in the Arizona Fall League. After determining which rules worked best, several of them we’re ultimately implemented at MLB level.
You can read a rundown of last year’s rules here.
Despite kicking and screaming from all corners of the debate, though, pace of play went largely unnoticed in 2016. Rarely were there any public arguments or disagreements from fans, players or coaches. And when something goes unnoticed, that’s usually because it’s working. And, indeed, the average length of a baseball game last year was six minutes shorter than the previous average.
The changes aren’t stopping there though.
According to Joel Sherman (New York Post), MLB is working to improve their pace of game rules in 2016. You can read the entirety of the changes here, but essentially they boil down into two new restrictions:
- Managers will be be forced to make pitching changes more quickly.
- 20 more seconds will be removed from the in-between-innings clock.
On the first one, I don’t see any fans complaining. The reason this particular-time saving measure is being targeted is because managers frequently lengthen their walk to the mound or their decision to pull the pitcher, precisely for more time. If your reliever isn’t yet warmed up, a leisurely stroll to the bump should give him the 3-5 extra pitches he needs. Now, that may be eliminated. The particulars haven’t yet been announced, but it’s possible that a clock might be used to enforce the change.
Again, no one wants to shorten the game of baseball just for the sake of shortening, because, well, we all love baseball.* The goal is to shorten the time spent standing around not playing baseball. These rules have been implemented slowly, but successfully, and that matters a great deal in the long run.
*[Brett: Agreed for us, though, in terms of the sport’s long-term health and viability among younger fans, I could see it helping to shave some serious time off of the total length of games. But that’s a discussion for a different day.]