Pitch clocks, shift limits, larger bases in MLB’s future

Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and the rest of the major league pitchers will likely be looking over their shoulders — at a pitch clock — next season.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and the rest of the major league pitchers will likely look over each other’s shoulders — at a pitch clock — next season.

Clocks have cut the length of minor league games by about half an hour this year, and baseball officials seem confident in getting the timers promoted to the majors.

“I think it takes it of course. And I think it comes regardless of player opposition. It’s kind of our fault,” said the Yankees’ Cole ahead of Tuesday’s All-Star Game. “We know it’s a problem and its importance and we don’t seem to be cleaning it up.”

Major League Baseball is also considering shift caps, larger bases, restrictions on pickup attempts and — perhaps in 2024 — limited use of robotic umpires to call balls and bats. The new collective agreement provides for an 11-member Competitions Committee with six management representatives, four players and one referee, empowered to make changes by majority vote with 45 days’ notice.

The average time spent in nine-inning games rose from 2 hours and 43 minutes in 2003 to 3:13 in 2020, before falling to 3:02 this season through July 12, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. A clock experiment in the minor leagues brought the average this year to 2:37 from 3:04 at a similar time for clockless games last year.

“I didn’t buy it at first. But when we started the season I was like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’ I like it. I think it’s more efficient,” said Brooklyn Cyclones manager Luis Rivera ahead of a 9-0 win over Greensboro on July 12 that passed in 2:27.

The time between pitches with no runners on base ranges from 12.6 seconds for Milwaukee’s Brent Suter and San Francisco’s Sam Long to 26.6 seconds for St. Louis’ Giovanny Gallegos and 26.0 for Atlanta’s Kenley Jansen. With runners, Tim Hill of San Diego leads with 18.1 and Gallegos (32.1) and Jansen (31.1) are the slowest.

The MLB average through Thursday was 20.5 seconds with no runners and 27.3 seconds with runners. Boston manager Alex Cora notes that drafts work faster than veterans.

“Over time, whatever they do in the smaller leagues is going to affect their play in the big leagues, which is great,” he said.

Baseball, long the most storied major US professional sport, introduced video reviews for home runs in 2009 and for a wide range of refereeing decisions in 2014. All 30 teams use the electronic pitching signal device introduced this spring.

This year, a clock is used in the subclasses: 14 seconds with empty bases and 19 with runners at Triple-A and 14/18 at lower levels. The clock starts “when the pitcher has possession and the catcher is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.” Also, “the batter must be in the box and alerting the pitcher with at least nine seconds remaining.”

“I’m not against a pitch clock, but I think it has to be an appropriate amount of time so as not to feel rushed,” said Houston’s Verlander, a two-time Cy Young Award winner. “Fourteen is quick. I was kind of on the fence, maybe a pro pitch watch, but then they talked to a couple of triple-A guys we had and they feel like they don’t even have enough time in certain situations to shrug off pitches. Granted, they don’t have PitchCom down there.”

Yankees pitcher Ryan Weber, who spent the first two months of this season with the Minors, prefers a watch but with an extra four seconds. He pointed to a 3-2 fastball he threw against Norwich’s Patrick Dorrian on April 17 that finished a nine pitch-at-bat with a flyout. He feared an injury that would lead to ball four.

“If I throw a pitch, catch the ball, and then go to the rosin bag, and then when I get to the mound and look for the sign, it’s running low and I have to say yes to that pitch,” Weber recalled. “I just grooved it. I felt like I was forced to throw.”

Breaches fell from 1.73 per game in opening week to 0.52 in week 11.

The goal of MLB is to eliminate dead times, such time-wasting tics like Nomar Garciaparra toe-tapping and adjusting batting gloves between courts.

“It’s something to get used to, but I think the impact on the pace of the game was good overall,” said the Yankees’ Matt Carpenter, who spent April at Triple-A with Round Rock.

Minor league pitchers were also limited to what the regulations call “two disengagements per plate appearance” with runners – pickoff attempts or dismounts from the runner. A third unsuccessful attempt results in an automatic block.

Bases have been increased from 15 to 18-inch squares to promote security – first basemen are less likely to be kicked – but also increased stolen bases and attacks at a slightly reduced distance.

Shifts have been capped at Double-A and Class A throughout the season, where teams are required to have four players in infield, including two on each side of second base. The Florida State League is adding an additional restriction beginning July 22, drawing pie-shaped chalk lines from second base to the outfield grass and banning infielders from the marked area in front of the field.

According to Sports Info Solutions, the use of shifts has exploded over the past decade, from 2,357 in-game hits in 2011 to 28,130 in 2016 and 59,063 in the last year. 71,000 have shifts this year.

There was a corresponding drop in the big league batting average from .269 in 2006 to .255 in 2011 to .242 this season, on track to be the lowest since 1967 — before the mound height was lowered.

“I mostly like organic,” said former Rays, Cubs and Angels manager Joe Maddon. “If we had to regulate our game to get better, I’d put all the infielders on the dirt, but I’d still allow three on one side.”

Shift ban tests are difficult to interpret because there is far less shift and defense data among the minors.

RELATED: Robot umpires on home plate stepping up to triple-A for 2022

MLB is also testing an automated ball strike system in the minors, which could reach the majors as early as 2024. The definition of the computer strike zone is still being worked on.

In an age of high-speed video cameras analyzing every field of play, major league referees face a lot of criticism. Jeremie Rehak and Pat Hoberg were the most accurate with 95.6% of correct plate umpires this season, according to UmpireScorecards.com. Among the umpires who played more than one game to call balls and strokes, Andy Fletcher (91.4%) and CB Bucknor (91.7%) were the least accurate.

A Florida State League Class A Test uses the robot umps in the first two games of each series, then has a human call ball and hits in the remaining game with a challenge system. Each team gets three challenges and keeps their challenge on success. Only the pitcher, catcher, or batter can appeal, unlike the MLB replay challenge system, where a manager generally has 20 seconds to contest a call — leaving time for the team’s video room staff, a to make a recommendation.

“I love that,” Verlander said of the ball/strike challenge system. “These guys get a lot of flak, but they have one of the toughest jobs in the world. We throw 100 mph, nod corners. If I were a referee, I like that: ‘Oh, you think you’re better than me? Make an appeal and find out.” I think it’s a fun back-and-forth.”

Decisions rest with the Technical Committee, which includes players Jack Flaherty, Tyler Glasnow, Whit Merrifield and Austin Slater, referee Bill Miller and six team officials.

MLB hopes faster games will be more appealing to fans as it tries to rebuild attendances in the wake of the pandemic. Cyclones general manager Kevin Mahoney said the minor league teams haven’t seen a drop in concession sales.

“We always noticed that fans were getting up and leaving at 9:30 a.m. in blocks of 10, 12, 14 at the same time from different sections. And I kept thinking, why is everyone leaving in the seventh inning?” Mahoney said. “Now we’re in the ninth inning by 9:30 most nights and they don’t go because the game is almost over.”

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/mlb/mariners/pitch-clocks-shift-limits-larger-bases-in-mlbs-future/281-9b614df0-8d66-48d9-b8cc-03b0e40f388c Pitch clocks, shift limits, larger bases in MLB’s future

Emma Bowman

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button