Pitching clock cuts playing time by 20 minutes in minor league

The implementation of strict shot clock use in Minor League Baseball has shaved 20 minutes off game times, drastically speeding up the pace without having a demonstrable effect on the scoreboard, setting the stage for Major League Baseball to implement a shot clock. in the 2023 season.

During the first 132 minor league games that included a 14-second clock with the bases empty, an 18-second clock with runners, and penalties for fouled pitchers and batters, the average game time was 2 hours, 39 minutes. . In a control set of 335 unclocked games to start the season, games lasted an average of 2 hours and 59 minutes, about the same average of 3 hours and 3 minutes in more than 5,000 unclocked games during the 2021 season.

More than a third of the minor league games during the three-day sample with the clock finished in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one game that finished in 1 hour, 59 minutes and another in 2 hours. Twenty-seven percent of games fell within the 2:30 to 2:40 range, almost three times the percentage in 2021. Only 15% of games exceeded three hours, compared to 52% of games the last season without a stopwatch.

Scoring was essentially flat, with the unclocked Test set producing 5.13 runs and 16.1 hits per game, while the clocked games featured 5.11 runs and 15.9 hits.

“It seemed like he accomplished exactly what MLB wants the game to be in a few short years,” said Henry Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft and wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ high-A class affiliate. “[Fuera de] playing in the College World Series or one-off games, it’s been the most fun I’ve ever played.”

For nearly a decade, MLB has tinkered with shot clocks in an effort to find the secret ingredient to speed up games, speed up the pace of play, and not drastically alter the run-scoring environment. With a faster pitch timer, a limit on the number of times a pitcher can get off, and ball and strike penalties for batters and pitchers, MLB may have found the balance that will hit Major League ballparks next season and address average game times that skyrocketed last season to 3 hours, 11 minutes. So far in 2022, MLB games are 3 hours and 10 minutes long, though that number is expected to increase as the weather warms and scoring increases.

In the new collective bargaining agreement, MLB has the ability to unilaterally implement new rules with 45 days notice. Previously, the league needed to inform the MLB Players Association of on-field changes a year in advance. While there are no plans for a major league pitch clock in 2022, the shorter window will allow MLB to collect data throughout the minor league season and design major league rules based on what it finds.

“We’re encouraged by the early results with the stopwatch, both in terms of the pace and pacing of the games and the style of play,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president who oversees the rule changes.

The 14- and 18-second timers are the most aggressive since MLB first played with a shot clock during the Arizona Fall League in 2014. In the first 132 games with it, umpires assessed 259 infractions: 73 automatic strikes for batters who were not ready when the clock reached the 9-second mark and 186 automatic balls for pitchers who did not throw a pitch before the clock expired.

The combination of the clock and the limitations of two shots to first off the mound, with a third causing an automatic balk, has also caused an 18% increase in stolen base efforts, with nearly three attempts per game with the clock on his place compared to 2.51 per game with no stopwatch last season. Major League Baseball teams averaged 1.2 stolen base attempts per game last season, the lowest number since 1964.

“At 2 seconds, it’s throw or choose. Most guys want to throw,” said the Tampa Bay Rays reliever, phoenix sanders, who was recently called up from Triple-A to the major leagues. “Hitters who can run are starting to time that. We’re taught to hold the ball, but right now we only have a certain amount of time to hold it. In the future, hitters may figure it out.”

While Triple-A and Double-A have both had 20-second shot clocks since 2018, limiting interceptions and tiebreakers in the lower-A California League last season led to the most dramatic decline in game times. Over the winter, MLB expanded the rule to the minor leagues as part of a set of changes that also include at-bat limitations (four infielders on the ground, two on each side of the second base pocket) at all levels. except Triple-A, 18-inch-square Bases (up from the standard 15-inch), and expanded use of the automated ball/strike system (robot umpires).

The combination of a shot clock and turn rules are clearly the most impactful rule changes.

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Pitching clock cuts playing time by 20 minutes in minor league