Implementing a pitch clock to improve the pace of play in Major League Baseball will not work as intended, nor will it improve the game. Players, umpires, and managers will ignore the pitch clock the same way they currently ignore all the existing time-related aspects of the rule book.
The pitch clock has already proven to be a farce in Triple-A professional baseball. I’ve never once seen an umpire take any action on pitch clock-related violations in Triple-A over the course of dozens of games I’ve attended since they installed pitch clocks.
Ostensibly, the impetus for the pitch clock is casual fans’ complaints that the wait between pitches has caused them to become disinterested in the sport. Indeed, it can be a drag when the pitcher, the batter, or both, are unnecessarily taking too much time between pitches. But in more consequential situations, and, especially, in more consequential games, the irresistible build-up of anticipation is contained in that lull between pitches. It’s one of the unique things about baseball that makes it special. Altering the development of that anticipation by enforcing a time limit between pitches is misguided.
There are three changes that I think Major League Baseball should consider to shorten the length of the games: limit catchers’ visits to the pitcher’s mound, shorten mid-inning pitching changes, and reduce the time between innings.
Limit Catchers’ Visits to the Mound
It seems that catchers visit the mound now more than ever. Major League Baseball should limit timeouts for catchers’ mound visits to, perhaps, one or two visits per inning, otherwise incur a ball or a balk.
Shorten Mid-Inning Pitching Changes
Mid-inning pitching changes should not be long enough to allow for a commercial break. Relief pitchers entering the game in the middle of an inning have already warmed up in the bullpen (unless they are replacing an injured pitcher). They shouldn’t need more warm-up pitches. I do understand that they need to get a feel for the pitcher’s mound, but three pitches should be sufficient for that purpose. Move the game along.
Reduce the Time Between Innings
Baseball primarily makes money by selling tickets and selling advertisements during the broadcasts of its games. Depending on the broadcast’s distribution (local vs. national), the time between half-innings for advertisements is either 2:05 or three minutes, respectively. With two commercial breaks per inning (except the ninth), that’s up to 51 minutes of commercials per baseball game.
The time between innings could be used more efficiently, however. Pitchers warm-up during the commercial break, which is necessary; however, they don’t need to warm up for as much time as they are provided. It’s time for Major League Baseball to innovate ways to reduce the amount of downtime between half-innings while maintaining its revenue, and without intruding on the presentation of the game.
Removing just 30 seconds (approximately one advertisement) from each break between half-innings would instantly save 8.5 minutes per game. Removing one minute (two advertisements) would save 17 minutes per game. Let’s make that happen.