Are baseball games too long? Game time creep is getting worse, with the average baseball game now being over 3 hours long, which is a pretty significant chunk of time. It's close to the average length of an NFL game, but longer than the average NBA and NHL game, and much longer than the average soccer game.
TCB's own Chris Perry says yes to the question, and is in favor of pitch clocks, but let's dig into the numbers a little more deeply. How much would a pitch clock actually effect the average game length? If the average amount of pitches thrown per game this year was around 292, and the average amount of time between pitches was 23 seconds, a 20 second pitch clock (similar to the one being experimented with in the AFL) would shave off at least 876 seconds, or a about 14.6 minutes off the average game time. This would penalize the Joel Peraltas and Junichi Tazawas of the pitching world but would be well over the amount of time it takes the Mark Buehrles of baseball to work their craft.
If MLB went further with the pitch clock idea and made it 15 seconds instead 20 (essentially turning every pitcher into a slightly improved version of Mark Buehrle), it would shave north of 2236 seconds, or 38.94 minutes from the average game time (assuming they would use the clock for every pitch, men on base or not, of course the pitch clock rule could have a number of variations to it). This would have a huge impact in speeding up games. If Baseball also limited the hitters' ability to step out of the box more than once per at bat, these two changes alone could bite a big chunk out of how long games are.
Obviously every pitcher wouldn't use up the whole 15 seconds of the clock, but it would get MLB pretty close to enforcing the never-enforced rule 8.04, which states that pitchers should deliver the pitch within 12 seconds of possession of the ball.
Let's be clear though: A pitch clock would change the game. It's difficult to foresee exactly how the game would change but it would probably give an advantage to runners on base and base stealing (as a TCB reader recently noted). With a pitch clock that is clearly visible to both the pitcher and the runner, the runner gets a leg up. If a pitcher isn't efficient with his time and the clock winds down to the last few seconds, any base runner would know that the pitch to home plate is coming. Unless the pitcher has a great pick-off move, the clock would likely improve the timing and rhythm of any would-be base stealer, and give them an extra second or so on their running leads.
From an entertainment standpoint this really doesn't seem like a bad outcome though. Bringing more athleticism and risk-taking to the game would be a welcome change to the grind and slog of the average MLB in 2014. A 15 second pitch clock may be a pie in the sky proposal, but it would be interesting to see MLB go a step further and experiment with it in fall league and spring training games. We certainly won't know how well it would work unless we try.
So what do you think TCB readers? Are you worried about your kids not liking baseball because it can't hold their attention for 3 hours? Do you find yourself losing consciousness because games are so long, or are you okay with baseball as is? Is a pitch clock the answer, or should MLB look into other ways to speed up the pace of play? Vote now!