Checking The Clock On The First Week Of Pace Of Play Upgrades

by Matthew Roberts | Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
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inning clock

Besides the blockbuster signings of several players such as Max ScherzerYasmany Tomas, and Yoan Moncada, this past off-season was most notable for the transition from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred as commissioner of Major League Baseball. As with all new commissioners, Manfred wanted to separate himself from his predecessor and start his legacy early. So, in conjunction with the MLB Players’ Association, Commissioner Manfred revealed new pace of play changes at the beginning of spring training to take place immediately. Among those changes included requiring the manager to stay in the dugout during replay challenges, keeping batters in the box when they take a pitch, and keeping a strict time limit on between inning breaks and pitching changes.

Baseball has always been regarded as the least progressive sport of the major four in the United States, and while these rule changes were welcome they continued to reflect that tradition. These changes generally amounted to enforcement of rules already on the books such as the batter’s box rule and the inning breaks rule. But, these changes were hailed as a step in the right direction and the maximum that could be accomplished in Manfred’s short term as Commissioner thus far.

After a week it has been pretty clear the changes have had their desired effects by reducing the average game from 3 hours, 2 minutes in 2014 to 2 hours, 54 minutes the first week of the season. The effect is especially more pronounced on the viewing experience of local broadcasts. Gone are the days of coming back from a two and half minute commercial break and then another minute of the homer announcers reading some local oil change ad after the viewer has already endured 5 other local ads on the commercial break. Now the break is 2 minutes and 25 seconds for local broadcasts (2:45 for national broadcasts) and at the 40 seconds remaining mark the batter is announced and withing 20-40 seconds the inning starts.

This change has been the most delightful and has clearly had the most impact on overall time. In fact, Sunday’s 14-4 game between the Boston Red Sox  and New York Yankees took 3 hours and 24 minutes. These teams were notorious for playing almost 4 hour games. Despite the use of 8 pitchers, 18 runs scored, and 24 hits, they finished in under three and half hours. In 2014, that game would have been four hours. The final proof that the change is working and is also being well received: no complaints from the players.

For the first week of the season at least, Commissioner Manfred’s rule changes have been a smashing success, and for those of us who watch our local broadcasts, we salute you. The television product is vastly improved with implementation of a few simple rules. Whether more is coming, or even needed, is up for debate. But for the time being, sit back, relax, and enjoy the new product.

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Matthew Roberts
About the Author

Matthew cut his teeth on baseball during $2 Bleacher Wednesdays at the old Arlington Stadium in the 1980's and has loved the Texas Rangers ever since. When he's not teaching his young son to throw a wicked circle change, he enjoys the six month friendly rivalry with his wife and her precious Oakland A's. Follow him on Twitter @ifithasballs.

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