We know that MLB is seeking on-field rules changes as soon as possible after finding some of the minor league experiments successful last year (and sensing an urgent need to improve the state of the on-field product).
One of the changes – one that I would argue is the most impactful and eventually least noticeable – is the pitch clock. The rules currently state that a pitcher is to deliver a pitch within 12 seconds of receiving the ball back from the catcher when the bases are empty, but with no actual clock in place, the rule is completely unenforced. In the minor leagues, where clocks have been tested at various levels for a long time now, the pace of the game picks up dramatically (and the length is reduced), and the players adjust quickly and it more or less goes unnoticed after that. (No, there aren’t a ton of balls suddenly being called for pitch clock violations.)
Now we know some more particulars on what the league wants:
We'll see if this makes it into the big leagues this season….Sources: MLB eyes pitch clocks of 14, 19 seconds https://t.co/T1nIyOOIiL
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) March 6, 2022
The most recent minor league tests were at 15 seconds with the bases empty and 17 seconds with runners on base. The former was determined to be a click too much, and the latter a click not enough. Thus, the 14/19 split. I like it. Do it. There should be no debate about this, again, given that there is ALREADY A RULE SET AT 12 SECONDS.
But I’m not naive. I know that there will be a fight about this. A lot of veteran pitchers – the ones with the most influence in the MLBPA – have never pitched with a clock (like most of the younger players have), and many have been extraordinarily vocal about opposing a pitch clock. I am all for the players getting a great deal in the CBA, but if they fight against a pitch clock, we’re just going to have to strenuously disagree on that one.
On the pitch clock, specifically: I believe it is not only a good idea, but a necessary one. It is *not* the same thing as a game clock like the other sports have – don’t worry, the beauty of baseball is not fundamentally changed! – and it simply ensures that pitchers and batters keep things moving at a reasonable clip. That’s it. Talk to anyone who has watched a minor league game over the last few years and they will confirm that, pretty soon, you don’t even notice the clock anymore, and all you notice is a faster-paced game. (Also, there is *already a rule on the books* about how long a pitcher can take to deliver a pitch! It just isn’t enforced because there’s no clock!)
If the data shows that a pitch clock significantly improves the pace of action (it does), and if the data shows that a pitch clock at least marginally improves the length of game (it does), and if everyone who has ACTUALLY PLAYED with a pitch clock has said it’s either great or fine (they have), then MLB players need to suck it up and get on board. Period. I mean, half of them have played with a pitch clock in the minor leagues at this point, I have no interest in seeing the veterans who haven’t being the ones to hold up this change. I just don’t have a lot of sympathy on this particular issue, and while I would like the players to agree to it, if they won’t join in, then I hope MLB does unilaterally make this change as soon as possible.
Also: figure out how to augment this to ensure that batters actually do stay in the box …