How long is the pitch clock in mlb? Major League Baseball has implemented some rule changes for the 2023 season that will feel pretty radical to a good number of people. Perhaps the most controversial is the pitch clock. Yes, the sport that has long been known for its avoidance at using clocks will now have one on every single pitch, starting Thursday on MLB Opening Day.
A summary of the rule:
The clock is 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base
The clock starts when the pitcher catches the ball from the catcher and the clock runs until the pitcher starts his delivery (not when he releases the ball)
The batter must step in the box and be ready to hit with at least eight seconds left on the clock
Violations by the pitcher are an automatic ball and by the hitter are an automatic strike
A hitter gets one timeout per plate appearance
A pitcher gets two “disengagements” per batter. This is either stepping off or a pickoff attempt. A third disengagement would result in a balk. The disengagement count resets if a runner advances, such as with a stolen base, balk, wild pitch or passed ball
It’ll be an adjustment for everyone involved and there will likely be growing pains early in the regular season. We saw a few high-profile violations in spring training, but for the most part it ran fine. We also tokok a look at which pitchers might be most affected hered
The three highest seasons in MLB history in average time of a game played were 2019, 2020 and 2021 (the leader at 3:10). It dropped down to 3:03 last year, but that’s still the fifth-longest in league history (2017 was fourth). We saw a drastic cut in the time of the game in spring training action (games were averaging two hours and 36 minutes in mid-March), though it’ll increase some in the regular season once there are full commercial breaks.
While cutting down on the time of the game has been a big issue in particular for commissioner Rob Manfred, one of the main reasons for the clock itself is to cut out downtime where a pitcher is just holding the ball for long stretches of time or a batter stands outside the batter’s box for upwards of 20-30 seconds. Essentially, the goal is to cut out the time watching players doing nothing at all without cutting out any of the actual baseball. Even if the time of game isn’t decreased significantly, we’ll presumably be watching a lot more action instead of inaction.
MLB’s New Pitch Clock Saved 26 Minutes per Game in Spring, League Says
The new pitch clock promises to bring substantial change to MLB this season, speeding up the game—which critics say can be a slog at times—by a significant amount. With Opening Day coming on Thursday, the league has shared some eye-opening numbers that reveal the impact of the clock, as well as some of the league’s other rule changes on 2023 spring training contests.
According to data provided to Sports Illustrated by MLB, spring training games through Tuesday took an average of 2:35. That is a 26 minute reduction in game time from 2022’s spring training played without the pitch clock.
That reduction comes despite offense being relatively flat, year-over-year. Last year, an average of 10.6 runs per game were scored in spring training. That mark was slightly down in 2023, at 10.2 runs per game. Batting average was also down this year, but only slightly: .259 in ’22 and .257 in ’23.
The rule changes could also have a stark impact on game strategy on the base paths. Along with the pitch clock, MLB has increased the size of the bases to 18-inch squares, from 15 inches. With the bigger bases, baseball hopes to alleviate player safety concerns, and to encourage teams to attempt more stolen bases and be more aggressive on the base paths. Combined with the pitch clock—and an additional rule that limits pitchers to just two step offs or pickoff attempts per plate appearance—baserunners should have far more opportunities to steal bags and increase scoring changes.
That played out in spring training as well. Stolen bases increased from 1.1 to 1.7 per game from spring training 2022 to ’23. Attempts were also up (1.6 to 2.3) and runners successfully stole bases 77.1% of the time in ’23, up from 71.3% in ’22.
Along with the pitch clock and larger bases, MLB eliminated the shift, made the automatic runner on second base in extra innings permanent, limited the situations in which teams can use position players to pitch and will enforce the balk rule on more unconventional pitcher deliveries that are deemed to violate the pitch clock with unnecessary motions.
When was there no turning back from a pitch clock?
Well, 2021 probably clinched it: Batting average dropped to .244, its lowest mark since 1972, and time of a nine-inning game ballooned to a longest-ever 3:10. See, it was never the 11-10 games, the slugfests, or the extra-inning staring contests that were the problem.
No, it was the 2-1 game that nonetheless took 3 hours to complete that spurred MLB into crisis mode. And while the new shift rules should spur more action, cramming that into a tighter window will on its own feel more exciting.
And so far, games are lasting as long as a traditionalist might think they should.
The median time of game so far is 2:36, and 22 of the first 65 games were contested in 2:30 or quicker. But perhaps most encouraging were the games that did, in fact, take the lion’s share of an afternoon.
Of the 15 longest games (2:54 and up), eight included one team scoring double-digit runs. And of the eight games lasting 3:03 or longer, all had at least 12 total runs scored.
Biggest tests ahead
Of course, it’s all fun and games when it’s just fake baseball played under the high skies of Florida and Arizona. The violations will almost certainly hit different once the games count.
And as for the “clock-off” tie that occurred between the Phillies and Braves, when the game ended on a pitch-clock violation by hitter Cal Conley after Atlanta scored three runs to tie the game?
“I don’t think this (rule) was intended for a game to end like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters. “It’s a good thing that we’re starting (now) because you never know what might happen. That instance right there, it kind of shows you what could happen.”
The Phillies found a loophole, in a sense, when their catch remained standing – not in the rulebook – while their pitcher was ready to deliver at the eight-second mark, enough to spur a violation.
Others will surely be found, perhaps kept under wraps until the regular season. That might produce a less tranquil conclusion than the aftermath of the Braves-Phillies “clock-off.”
But at least the end will come quickly.
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