The pitch clock (officially the “pitch timer”) has been a great success, in my opinion, since it was instituted in MLB games this year in Spring Training. Spring games this year have been, on average, 25 minutes shorter than last year, which is a good thing.
MLB’s Competition Committee discussed this change at length before it was instituted last September. Evan Drellich of the Athletic notes that players on the Committee unanimously voted against the pitch timer (and defensive shifts), and issued this statement:
“Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that Players raised, and as a result, Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the rules covering defensive shifts and the use of a pitch timer,” the MLBPA said in a statement in September, when MLB announced the changes for 2023.
One of those concerns was that the intensity of games is greater during the postseason and so the timer should not be used then. To which an MLB executive responded:
Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, acknowledged in September that the question was one of the main issues discussed on the competition committee. One key point: the later in a game, the slower things get.
“Ultimately, I think the committee decided to keep the same rules throughout the game for a couple of reasons,” Sword said. “One, didn’t like the idea of playing different parts of the game under different rules. Two, they felt it was unfair for some players to have some pitching with a timer and some not pitching with a timer. And lastly, you know, the pace issues … are most acute for the end of the game. And that, I think if we’re going to deliver to fans what they’re asking for, it’s important that those timer rules stay in effect throughout the game.”
I concur with this. Beyond what Morgan Sword said here, if the timer were turned off in the postseason, we’d be back to the four-hour October games that nobody wants. Yes, granted, game situations in the postseason are more important, each pitch and play is more meaningful — but that still doesn’t mean we need hitters stepping out multiple times per at-bat, yanking around on batting gloves, or pitchers stomping around the mound.
Here are some comments from the link above from someone you are quite familiar with, from Drellich’s article:
Theo Epstein, a consultant to the commissioner and a key voice during the rule-making process, said the rules are designed to prevent games from turning on technicalities.
“There are a lot of safeguards built into the rules to make sure that games aren’t decided in a late-and-close situation by a pitch-timer violation,” Epstein said. “Every hitter has a timeout each and every plate appearance, where if the game is going too fast, you need a little bit more time, you can simply call timeout, and gather your thoughts and reset the timer that way.
“When there are runners on base, every pitcher can step off twice per plate appearance with impunity, and reset the clock and gather your thoughts and move forward. And then you get two more if a runner advances.
“There are five mound visits throughout the course of the game. You’re guaranteed to have one in the ninth inning and one in each extra inning that can be used to stop the clock — come together, gather thoughts and move forward. And then there are also, thanks to player input, there’s now some discretion with umpires under certain special circumstances, where umpires can afford the players more time to avoid a situation where it’s inappropriate to have the clock dictate a ball or strike or decide a game.
“So those are safeguards that were important, because we want players to be able to perform at a really high level without incurring violations, and the rule was designed that way for that reason.”
Yes, these quotes are long but I thought they were worth reproducing in their entirety. Theo is correct. There are already ways for players to slow down play — and as he notes, umpires have discretion to give more time when it seems necessary, and I am certain they would do so in postseason games. I agree with Theo that a pitch-timer violation shouldn’t decide a postseason game — and in fact, that’s probably extremely unlikely, given the fact that the number timer violations has already shrunk, even before Spring Training ends. Players are getting accustomed to the new rules quickly.
I would guess that MLB’s Competition Committee will be closely watching this year’s postseason games to see how they play out under the new rules. If tweaks are needed after that, I’m certain those will be made — a few minor changes to the new rules have already been put in place even before the 2023 regular season begins.
But let’s see at least one MLB postseason before we make judgments on the use of the pitch timer. Personally, I’m looking forward to postseason games that don’t drag on until after 11 p.m. Central time, or midnight in the Eastern time zone.
The pitch timer used in the postseason...
This poll is closed
Sure, fine by me, shorten up those October games
Nope, turn it off after the regular season
Let’s wait and see how it works this year before making any changes