It’s been brought up on numerous occasions in recent years. The MLB has furiously attempted to implement rules and regulations that speed up the average runtime of an MLB regular season game.
How are things going you ask?
Well, in 2017 the MLB saw its regular season games hit a historic average runtime of three hours and five minutes… So, not well.
This is likely due to the recent implementation of video review, which in retrospect, is not necessarily a bad thing, as the average fan will always claim they’d rather them the extra time be taken to make sure the call is correct (we all remember the Jim Joyce fiasco back in 2010... We don’t need anymore of those).
So especially now, with the benefitted effect of video review, what can the MLB do to cut their games to under three hours?
Suggesting a few new, as well as developing on recently proposed ideas, let’s examine where the issues lie, and what ramifications can be taken to reach the ultimate goal of a faster paced baseball game.
The 'Pitch Clock'
The one idea that may soon very well be a reality is a pitch clock.
The MLB has proposed the idea of implementing a twenty second pitch clock to pitchers in between pitches.
Not only would it eliminate all potential “human rain delays” such as Mike Hargrove, it would essentially put pressure on the pitcher to almost rush their next pitch.
Imagine being in a critical situation. An MLB pitcher already has enough going through his head without a time limit. Now, you’re adding another element to run through their head, not to mention, not give them much time to gather themselves and take control of a given situation.
This factor could drastically change who is effective as an MLB pitcher. Some guys need a moment to collect themselves in order to be in a mindset to be effective on the mound.
This new aspect of pitching will force scouts to rethink their scouting tactics, and emphasis will be placed on a pitcher’s ability to be effective in entirely new situations.
We’re not necessarily against the proposal of a pitch clock, as the MLBPA recently rejected the new pitch clock proposal. However, twenty seconds seems a tad harsh (heck, even NBA teams get twenty-four seconds for a single possession). It’s a time limit that can change the effectiveness of any pitcher. It’s a time limit that can even force unnecessary injuries.
With that said, a pitch clock can still be implemented, but instead of twenty seconds, allow a countdown of twenty five or thirty seconds. Is a pitcher still affected? Absolutely, but even those few extra seconds make a difference that can help level off the change in pitching style they’re going to be forced to embrace.
Limit Visits To The Mound
Another rule that has seen quite a bit of traction as is the idea of limiting mound visits. There’s no reason this shouldn’t happen. Unlike the pitch clock, where pros and cons can be easily represented, this one is essentially indisputable.
Managers are currently allowed to visit a specific pitcher once per inning. The second visit within the same inning requires a call to the 'pen.
Why? Why if a guy is getting ‘blown up' in the 4th inning, should a manager be able to visit in the 4th, then when the manager decides to keep stick with him into the 5th, and he allows a lead off home run, the manager is allowed to go right back out there, and is still not required to pull the guy? There’s a simple answer… He should be.
The solution is simple, a manager can visit a specific pitcher once every three innings. The second visit within a three inning span entails a call to the bullpen.
So, ideally, a manager can visit his starting pitcher twice in the first six innings, completely reasonable. Not to mention, you’ll be able to visit him a third time if he makes it past six.
Next, catchers... Yup, they count. A catcher should be limited to one visit to the mound per inning.
Notice, that's one per inning, NOT one per pitcher per inning.
So in the eighth inning, a catcher visits a winded starter on the mound, and the starter eventually gets pulled with 2 outs, the catcher can NOT visit the reliever in the eighth.
Moan and groan all you want, the guy has had over seven innings to prepare for a game situation. If he can’t get the one out, too bad.
A manager can still use his 'one visit per three innings' as we suggested, but enough with the limitless stalling & the tedious mound visits.
Listen, advertisements pay bills, bills pay salaries, they’re unavoidable.
However the need to have a commercial break every half inning seems like a logical reason games are exceeding three hours.
Doing the math, (not including commercials taken for a pitching change) there are a guaranteed 17 commercial breaks per MLB game. Barring both pitchers go the complete 9 innings (yeah, okay), you’re looking at a minimum of 20 commercial breaks per game.
Limit breaks to every full inning and compact the ads accordingly. This would cut that minimum number of 17 to 8. Then, you still have breaks needed for pitching changes, anywhere from 3-6 more pending on the game length.
For those that argue you’d bring in less ad revenue... Wrong. With games being contained to two and half hours, viewers at home are more inclined to commit to tuning in. Meaning, ratings go up, meaning networks can charge more for an ad, making up the difference.
Teams could also see a spike in revenue, as less commercial delays would incline fans to attend a shorter, faster live game leading to greater ticket sales.
So, ratings go up, networks increase ad prices while keeping revenue at par, clubs potentially increase ticket sales, and the MLB gets a faster paced game they are desperately seeking.
Other than the pitch clock implementation, these are all just ideas that seem to circulate, but in the end, we still have an average MLB game standing at three hours…
Sorry, three hours and five minutes to be exact.