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MLB’s new pitch clock aims to accelerate pace of play

Mar 09, 2023


Back in 1971, Hall of Fame baseball writer Roger Angell mused of America’s pastime that “within the ballpark, time moves differently, marked by no clock except the events of the game.” While those words may have held true for almost two centuries of the sport’s history, this year the clock is ticking.

In 2023, Major League Baseball will implement a pitch clock to accelerate the game’s pace of play in an attempt to reinvigorate fan interest. During the 2021 season, MLB games lasted an average of just over three hours and 10 minutes, an all-time high, which corresponded with the league also seeing a 37-year low in total game attendance that year.

“Understanding what Major League Baseball is trying to do is eliminate some of that dead air, that dead time in between pitches,” 12-year MLB veteran Jeff Huson told Straight Arrow News. “They want more action. That’s why you pay money to come watch them play because you want to see them do something special.”

The new pitch clock will work by imposing a 30-second timer between batters and a time limit between pitches. After receiving the ball from the catcher or umpire, pitchers are required to begin their motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty or within 20 seconds with runners on base. If they do not, they will be charged with an automatic ball.

“It’s going to be a problem for some people, for sure,” said San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Alex Wood. “It’s going to be an interesting first few weeks of spring training and games.”

Meanwhile, hitters must be in the batter’s box and ready for the pitch by the time the clock reaches eight seconds, otherwise they will be penalized with an automatic strike. Additionally, pitchers are permitted only two disengagement and batters can only call time out once per an at bat.

“You have to adapt,” said 15-year MLB veteran Ron Villone, now a pitching coach with the Chicago Cubs organization. “Rome wasn’t built in a day — but the pitch clock was, and you just have to figure things out.”

For the players, this new change brings a bit of a learning curve. As MLB’s spring training has gotten underway, San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado became the first player to commit a pitch clock violation, while a game between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves ended in a tie after the final batter was called out on an automatic strike.

“It’s going to be a different game, of course, especially with myself and a lot of guys that have been playing for a long time,” said seven-time MLB All-Star Bryce Harper. “It’s going to be different to see baseball on a time clock, but it’s something we’re going to have to adapt to. We’ll see what happens going forward. I look forward to kind of progressing in that how and when I can.”

Based on testing in the minor leagues, this new feature is likely to knock the average game time down from about three hours to a two and a half hour range last seen in 1985. With pitch clocks implemented throughout the minor leagues last season, the average game time was cut by 25 minutes, and so far in spring training, games have been an average of over 20 minutes shorter.

These faster moving games would save an MLB fan who watched all 162 of their favorite team’s regular season games more than 3,000 minutes or over two days worth of time.