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MLB is considering reducing the pitch timer with runners on base

I like this idea.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Through the 2023 season, Major League Baseball worked with an official pitch timer (the official name of what most call the “pitch clock”) for the first time.

It worked spectacularly well, reducing the average game time by 24 minutes and making games feel faster-paced and more action-packed.

The timer was set to 15 seconds with no one on base and 20 seconds with runners on.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports Wednesday that MLB’s Competition Committee is considering one tweak to the pitch timer:

Major League Baseball’s competition committee is weighing a proposal that would reduce the pitch clock with runners on base from 20 seconds to 18 next season, aiming to reverse a late-season trend that saw the average time of game increase by seven minutes, sources told ESPN.

MLB’s competition committee, which includes six members representing teams, four players and one umpire, heard the proposal to shave the clock as well as cut down mound visits from five per game to four, sources said

The 15-second clock without runners on base would remain the same, sources said.

I am 100 percent in favor of this. I noticed they were testing this 18-second limit during the Arizona Fall League games I attended, though MLB did this without any real publicity. If games really were lasting longer late in the season, let’s not go down that slippery slope. The article gives some numbers:

The average game time was 2:37 in April and May, but jumped to 2:39 in June, 2:40 in July, 2:41 in August and 2:44 in September.

Of the 1,094 pitch-clock violations in 2023, 14% came with runners on base. On average, pitchers began their deliveries with 6.5 seconds remaining on the 15-second clock and 7.3 seconds left on the 20-second clock.

Passan’s article says that the Competition Committee’s recommendations can be put in place 45 days after being proposed. He writes that this has been sent along to the MLBPA, with comments expected to follow. Further:

Players have voiced concerns regarding the reduction of the clock, sources said, pointing to the spate of pitching injuries that hindered the sport in 2023. MLB has pushed back on the idea that sped-up pace of game caused the injuries, and because teams hold a majority of seats on the committee — which was formed during negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2022 — the league essentially has carte blanche on rules changes.

Multiple pitchers not in the most recent competition-committee meeting but familiar with the discussions said they would be more open to a reduction of the clock with runners on base if it were countered with a longer clock with the bases empty. But MLB showed no inclination to move off the 15-second rule, sources said.

I agree with that. The 15-second rule seems just fine, and the number of violations dropped precipitously after the first month or so of the season, exactly as MLB predicted it would. While the Competition Committee is always open to player input — and there are players on the committee — when they make proposals like this they generally get implemented.

The pitch timer is one of the best things to happen to Major League Baseball in decades. Credit where credit is due, Rob Manfred got this one right. I’d expect the 18-second limit with runners on base to be implemented.

For what it’s worth, about 43.8 percent of plate appearances in 2023 occurred with runners on base, which is consistent with numbers like that in previous years.


Reducing the pitch timer to 18 seconds with runners on base...

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Love it! Do it!
    (100 votes)
  • 14%
    Hate it! It’s fine the way it is
    (31 votes)
  • 30%
    Don’t care either way
    (63 votes)
  • 7%
    Don’t like the pitch timer at all
    (15 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now