NEW YORK (AP) Leagues that used 20-second pitch clocks this season cut 12 minutes from their average game time, double the 6-minute overall drop in the minors.
In the first year the pitch clocks were used at Triple-A and Double-A, 310 balls were called against tardy pitchers for violating pace-of-game rules and 170 strikes were called against procrastinating batters.
Some pitchers still believe batters could do more to help.
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”You see a lot of pitchers, they get a ball added on to the count, but when it comes to the hitters, the hitters still take their time,” Houston pitcher Vincent Velasquez said. ”They do their sweet little wrapping their batting gloves, or hitting home plate, clearing the dirt off their cleat or whatever.”
Overall, the average time of nine-inning games in the minor leagues dropped to 2 hours, 43 minutes, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues said Wednesday.
Triple-A and Double-A leagues, the highest levels of the minors, used 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes May 1, with the Texas League delaying the start until May 15. At Triple-A, the International League average dropped 16 minutes to 2:40 and the Pacific Coast League fell 13 minutes to 2:45.
At Double-A, the Eastern League dropped 12 minutes to 2:38, the Southern League 11 minutes to 2:41 and the Texas League six minutes to 2:45.
”I think the players got used to it. I think the umpires got used to it,” said Tim Brunswick, vice president of baseball and business operations of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which governs the minors. ”It wasn’t as big of an impact of the field staffs as maybe they thought it would be.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association has refused to allow pitch clocks.
”Whether that experiment migrates to the big league level is going to be a product of conversations with the MLBPA,” new Commissioner Rob Manfred said in July. ”But we remain positive about the 20-second clock as something that could be useful to the game at the big league level.”
Union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman, maintains the big league game is markedly different from how it is played in the minors.
”We have heard from players who have played in the minor leagues and who have gotten up to the big leagues, and rest assured their experiences wouldn’t suggest that they’re bending over backwards to implement the same thing up here that they are experiencing down there,” he said.
MLB and the players’ association agreed this year to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box in many cases, and they also agreed to post stadium clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks. While MLB said in February there would be a warning and fine system that included discipline for flagrant violators, MLB has refused to say whether any players have been fined.
The average time of nine-inning games in the majors was 2:53 before the All-Star break, down from 3:03 last year, according to STATS. But since the All-Star break it is has been 3:00, a drop of just 2 minutes from 2014.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.