Where clocks would work in baseball
The pitch clock will be instituted in AAA and AA stadiums around minor league baseball next season. A pitch clock test was run in the Arizona Fall League and was relatively well received. The next step is the minors, and depending on how that goes, discussions could heat up about adding pitch clocks to the major leagues, although I don’t think we’ll ever see it.
Clocks in the game are something that many fans, coaches and players are pessimistic about. But there is a place for clocks in baseball, when the game is actually not being played.
Going back to the late 90’s, I have long been a proponent of a clock for pitching changes. The rules in major league baseball allow an incoming relief pitcher to take eight warm up tosses, and he has up to one minute to complete them (Rule 8.03). How often is that one-minute rule enforced? I played this game for 19 years professionally, mostly as a reliever; I didn’t even know that rule existed.
Each bullpen location is different and each reliever is different. Some relievers like to walk in from the bullpen, most jog and others even sprint. Some bullpens are really close to the game mound, like at Wrigley, and some are ridiculously far, like Coors Field and Citizens Bank Park.
There has been more than one occasion where I have seen umpires frustrated with how long a pitcher takes to get to the mound and subsequently, how long it takes him to get ready. There is a simple fix to this, throw the eight pitch rule out and go to a clock.
Once the call to the bullpen has been made, start the clock. TV breaks are 2:05 locally, 2:30 nationally. Once a manager calls for a reliever and the umpire confirms the pitching change, start the 2:15 clock. A reliever can sprint to the mound and take 15 warm-ups if he wishes, or walk and take three. There’s no more frustration from umpires and fans and no more inconsistent breaks between pitching changes.
The same can be done for time in between innings. For local broadcasts 2:30 from the point of the last out to the first pitch is fair, nationally 2:45. The average is currently over three minutes.
For a nine-inning game with four middle of the inning pitching changes you’re looking at 11-12 minutes of dead time disappearing. That may not seem like a lot of time over a three-hour baseball game, but as Rob Neyer pointed out in our inaugural JABO Podcast, it’s not necessarily about the time of the games, but the pace of the games. This would certainly address that.