Press Box: Baseball’s pace of play can be improved

Illustration by Steck Von

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Baseball, America’s pastime. A sport that was once the most popular in the U.S. has lost popularity in recent years because the games are too long and, at times, quite boring.

During the 2017 MLB season, the average time it took to complete a nine-inning game was 3 hours, 5 minutes and 11 seconds. The average NFL game in week two of the 2017 season was 3 hours, 4 minutes.

Football games take over three hours because of the commercials that plague the television broadcasts. There are commercials at practically every stoppage in play, at times. Baseball games take three or more hours simply because of the slow pace of play. A baseball game with fewer ads should not take longer to finish than a commercial-ridden NFL game.

The MLB introduced a pitch clock in minor league baseball in 2015 in the Double-A and Triple-A levels. This rule implementation was aimed at minimizing the slow pace of play caused by both batters and pitchers.

The pitch clock runs for 20 seconds for each pitch, except for the first pitch of an at-bat. A pitcher does not have to throw the ball by the end of the allotted time, but they do have to start their windup.

This rule was put in place in this year’s MLB Spring Training for the first time at the major league level — to the displeasure of many star players.

“As players, it just shouldn’t be in the game,” Washington Nationals star pitcher Max Scherzer told ESPN. “Having a pitch clock, if you have ball-strike implications, that’s messing with the fabric of the game. There’s no clock in baseball, and there’s no clock in baseball for a reason.”

But there is a reason to put a clock in baseball because of the sheer fact that a game takes just as long as an NFL game.

The pitch clock would also force batters to get into the box in a timely manner. Currently, many batters leave the batter’s box after every single pitch and adjust their gloves or helmet. This slows down most MLB games.

Minor league baseball introduced the pitch clock in 2015 and saw shorter games immediately. In the International League, one of two Triple-A leagues, games were shortened an average of 15 minutes. The length of games went from 2 hours and 56 minutes in 2014 to 2 hours and 41 minutes in 2015.

Though 15 minutes may seem like a small difference, it proves the pitch clock does indeed move the game along faster. If this were introduced in the MLB regular season, pacing would improve in a similar way.

The MLB has already shot down the idea of implementing the pitch clock into major league games until 2021 — at the earliest — when a new collective bargaining agreement will be needed. The owners could put the pitch clock in place without the approval of the players union, but it would not go over well. So, when the new agreement is needed, the pitch clock will be brought up during the meetings. The owners are likely to favor the clock, unlike the players — the owners want to grow their brands and make more money.

The pitch clock is needed in the MLB and it will shorten the length of each game, bringing new fans to baseball and growing the sport as a whole.

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