After several years of enduring baseball games that lasted longer than three hours, MLB finally implemented a pitch clock. It was tried out in a number of minor leagues before arriving in MLB in 2023.
How has it worked so far?
The Pitch Clock
If you’re unaware, the MLB pitch clock regulates how long a pitcher may wait between pitches. A pitcher has 15 seconds to throw his next pitch if there are no runners on base. He is given 20 seconds when there is at least one runner on base.
Prior to the pitch clock running out, the pitcher must be in his windup. A ball is automatically awarded for any pitch clock infraction. There must be at least eight seconds left on the pitch clock when batters enter the batter’s box. A hitter commits a violation and gets called for a strike automatically if he is not in the box at that time.
There are some additional nuances, but those are the fundamentals of the new rule. Of course, the pitch clock has generated a lot of discussion among fans and within the league.
The Purists of Baseball
Purists of traditional baseball despise the pitch clock. They assert that the game was intended to be played at its own pace. A clock has never been used in baseball. It was never intended to, and purists think it takes away from the original game.
The pitch clock does eliminate some of the psychological tricks that pitchers could employ against hitters. The most ardent baseball purists will find that to be an important aspect of the game.
Many people also claim that games today move too quickly. While 2:03 may be a little too short for an MLB game, three and a half hours is definitely too long.
Scoring Is Up
Compared to last season, MLB games now average 9.1 runs per game. It’s interesting to note that MLB games in 2021 also featured an average run total of 9.1. The numbers are back up this season after declining last year. But is the increase in scoring connected to the new pitch clock?
Los Angeles Dodgers were the MLB team with the most runs scored in 2022. Last year, they scored 5.17 runs per game on average. The Texas Rangers have held the top spot for the majority of the season. They currently score 5.83 runs per game on average. Six teams average at least 5.00 runs per game currently. Last season, only the Dodgers were over the 5-run mark.
Change in Pitching
A look at pitching statistics also provides some useful information. Starting pitchers have almost certainly been the group that has been most impacted by the pitch clock.
The Dodgers also held the majors record for team ERA in 2022. LA’s pitchers had an overall ERA of 2.82. With 2.84, Houston’s staff came in second. The Dodgers were No. 1 once more in 2021 with a team ERA of 3.02. The league-leading Dodgers posted a 3.11 ERA even during the abbreviated 2020 MLB season.
The key takeaway is that the best baseball pitching staff have had team ERAs that have tended to be around 3.00. Tampa Bay has the top pitching staff in MLB in 2023 based on ERA with the new pitch clock. The Rays’ ERA as a whole is 3.70.
Pitcher injuries were one of the arguments raised against the use of the pitch clock. The numbers show that there is no connection between the two.
A spike in pitcher injuries occurred in 2021, and through the first 75 days of the season, 195 pitchers had been placed on the injured list. In 2022, it decreased to 157. It’s interesting to note that there were fewer this year (146).
It’s interesting to note that this year’s average fastball and breaking ball velocities are higher than they were in 2022. Through the first 75 days of the season last year, the average fastball clocked in at 93.8 mph. It was 94.0 this year. Breaking ball speed increased from 82.6 to 83.0 miles per hour.
Actually, those figures are more suggestive of an increase in injuries. The torque on the elbow increases with the speed at which these pitchers throw. Compared to the time between pitches, that can unquestionably result in more injuries.
Games are being sped up by the pitch clock, which eliminates about 30 minutes from each game. It won’t disappear any time soon. To determine its actual impact on the game, if any, we’ll need a larger sample size.
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