MLB and the MLBPA today announced initiatives designed to shorten games by speeding up the pace of play. A major complaint in recent years has been the length of games, which in 2014 set a record with an average time of 3 hours and 2 minutes. None of these new initiatives are as invasive as the pitch clock being implemented at the AAA and AA levels this season, and the penalties for violators will not affect the outcome of the games, as they will be punished using warnings and fines. According to John Schuerholz, the Chairman of the MLB's Pace of Game Committee, the idea is not punishment, but to change habits.
"The Pace of Game Committee wants to take measured steps as we address this industry goal to quicken the pace of our great game. It is not an objective of ours to achieve a dramatic time reduction right away; it is more important to develop a culture of better habits and a structure with more exact timings for non-game action."
The first change will be the enforcement of the batter's box rule. This would require all batters to keep at least one foot in the batter's box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. That last phrase is the important part of this rule, as the group of exceptions is large.
- The batter swings at a pitch
- The batter is forced out of the batter's box by a pitch
- A time out
- Fake bunt
- Wild pitch
*These are not listed. Purely speculation.
There are so many exceptions, that it would be easier to say the batter should keep one foot in on a called ball or strike. Either way, there are enough called balls and strikes in a game, they hope this will save some time over the course of a game. As an added bonus, we do not have to watch the batters time consuming rituals between every pitch. (Just when there is an "exception".)
The second change will be an attempt to limit the break time between each half inning. Each park will have a timer installed near the outfield scoreboard and behind home plate. After the 3rd out, the clock will count down from 2:25 (for locally televised games) or 2:45 (for nationally televised games). The traditional 8 pitch warm-up will no longer be the norm. The pitcher will now be allowed to throw as many warm-up pitches he wants up to the 30 second mark on the clock. If he doesn't get to 8 pitches before that time, he forfeits those pitches. If a batter does not enter the batter's box by the 5 second mark, or the pitcher does not begin his motion before zero, they will be in violation. As with the batter's box rule, there will be exceptions.
That is a lot to keep track of between innings to enforce "more exact timings", as Schuerholz said above. The World Umpires Association has agreed to this change, so they must be okay with enforcing these new time management constraints. All parties will review these changes after the 2015 World Series to assess the impact.
It seems like this is a good starting point for fixing the length of games (if you think it even needs fixing). Do you think MLB needs to go further? Is this a baby step to pitch clocks at MMP soon?