Slid into one of Ken Rosenthal’s latest pieces at The Athletic were some interesting notes and clarifications on the relatively game-changing “pitch clock,” expected in 2018. (If you missed it before, catch yourself up now: the pitch clock is expected in the big leagues in 2018.)
According to Rosenthal, it won’t only be the pitchers having to adjust to a new 20-second pitch clock – the hitters will have to be adjusting, too. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations between MLB and the players’ union tell Rosenthal that hitters must be back in the box, ready to hit, with at least five second left on the clock, as well.
Logically, this makes plenty of sense – without it, batters could take advantage of the pitch clock and make the life of a pitcher a living hell – though I’ll admit I took for granted how exactly they’d enforce much-needed addendum to the rule. Fortunately, like the 20-second pitch clock itself, this batter-in-the-box with five seconds to go part is already in use at Double and Triple-A, so that seems to be the plan.
According to Rosenthal, enforcement of the dual clocks remains a significant concern, and the league is still negotiating the particulars with the players union. It may sound simple enough at first, but when you start considering the logistics of one umpire keeping track of two countdowns for every single pitch in a game, things get a little less obvious. I’m sure they’ll figure something out, but on such a momentous change to the game, they’ll want to ensure that everything is just right before deploying. The wrath will be bad enough even if things go perfectly.
As for when the clock will be officially official, Rosenthal’s sources peg mid-January as the target, so that umpires can adjust to the new rules and prepare for the season with time to spare. But if you’re wondering what’s taking so long (other than getting everything just right), remember that, although the league can move on this unilaterally, they are reportedly doing their best to keep the players union involved in the process.
All things considered, that’s probably the right call.
It’s not really a final report, but with every passing day we’re getting a closer look at what the final product might be. So get ready, baseball fans, because it sure sounds like the pitcher (and hitter!) clock is coming. Like it or not.