The Pitch Clocks Worked

Flashback seven months to the start of the Tacoma Rainiers season, and there was a big story throughout Triple-A Baseball: the installation and use of pitch clocks.

Now that everything is said and done, and the statistics are in, it’s time to look and see if they worked.

Pace of play was a big emphasis for the 2015 season, as MLB was looking for ways to speed up play in a game that has gotten longer and longer by the decade.

Triple-A and Double-A teams were required to install clocks with counted down 20 seconds between pitches, and also had a between-inning countdown to get the teams to change sides quickly. Relief pitchers were also on the clock, forced to get on the mound and finish their warm-ups in a timely fashion.

Additional rules were put in place to speed up games. The most important rule forced batters to keep one foot in the batter’s box between pitches (unless the previous pitch had been fouled off or went wild). Umpires were told to ask batters to get in the box and keep things moving.

The changes worked.

Pacific Coast League games dropped from an average of 2:58 in 2014 to 2:45 in 2015. That’s an average of 13 minutes quicker.

Similar results were noticed in the other Triple-A and Double-A leagues, which also had the pitch clocks and new rules enforced. All games in these leagues were an average of 12 minutes quicker in 2015 compared to 2014.

Looking strictly at Tacoma games, we find very similar numbers: in 2014, nine-inning Rainiers games averaged 2:57. In 2015, that number was shaved down to 2:43.

The biggest difference was the lack of ridiculously long nine-inning games.

In 2014 Tacoma played 58 nine-inning games which lasted longer than three hours. In 2015 that number dropped to just 20.

Here’s a breakdown of the Rainiers nine-inning games which lasted over three hours:

2014 (old rules)

  • 3:00 – 3:15: 33 games
  • 3:16 – 3:30: 13 games
  • 3:31 – 3:45: 8 games
  • 3:46 – 4:00: 3 games
  • 4:01 – longer: 1 game (4:18 vs. Fresno on August 9).

2015 (new pace of play rules)

  • 3:00 – 3:15: 18 games
  • 3:16 – 3:30: 2 games
  • 3:31 – longer: none.

It’s clear the new measures worked.

The biggest question moving forward is, What do we do with these pitch clocks? Use them at all levels? Only the minors? Abolish them immediately because there are no clocks in baseball goshdarnit?

I consider myself to be a bit of a traditionalist, and once I got used to the timers I wasn’t bothered by them. In fact, I rarely even looked at them while broadcasting the games, and only mentioned them if I happened to notice that a pitcher was regularly pushing the limits. And of course I mentioned them the three or four times all season that a ball or strike was awarded by the umpire because of a batter or pitcher’s tardiness.

I’m curious to know what the fans think. If you attended a lot of Rainiers games, did you stop noticing the clocks after your first few games? Or were they something you looked at often?

The casual fan who attends two or three games a year certainly noticed them, and probably didn’t like them. I understand that – they took a while to get used to before they faded from my viewing of the game.

They worked, though. I wonder if MLB can figure out a way to maintain the improved pace of play without installing clocks in the big leagues.

Links:

  • The Mariners announced more of the structure of their new front office. Bob Dutton has the details.
  • Here an article from MiLB.com with additional details on how pace of play improved in the minor leagues this season.
  • Game One of the World Series had everything, Jonah Keri writes.
  • Larry Stone has a column on Redmon’s Michael Conforto, now playing in the World Series for the Mets.
  • The San Diego Padres named Andy Green as their new manager. Green won the PCL Most Valuable Player award in 2005 as a member of the Tucson Sidewinders.
  • The 1985 World Series was very memorable. If you have some time to burn, enjoy this oral history of it.
  • There is going to be a new Double-A team in the Eastern League next season: the Hartford Yard Goats. They introduced their mascots and, welp… go see for yourself.

Have a great weekend, and hopefully we’ll still have a World Series going next week!

6 Responses to The Pitch Clocks Worked

  1. Ray Sprinkle says:

    I hope I am qualified to reply as I did not see a single game in Tacoma. I was, however, a big fan of the Tacoma GIANTS (Tacoma Wilson class of 1962) and continue to follow the team and your blog.

    This past year I attended 10 Reno Aces games and have been at almost 100 since 2009. I always sit in section 109, directly behind home plate so the centerfield clock is directly in view. I agree with you that, after a few games, it was no distraction. I found the pace of game to be much improved, especially the time between innings. As I have a 65 mile drive home any shortening of the game is appreciated so I hope this becomes part of the game.

    Keep up the good work with the games and your blog.

    Ray Sprinkle
    Fallon, NV

  2. Mike Curto says:

    In July they started turning off the clock after pitches in the dirt which required a new ball to be put into play. That might be the reason.

  3. Diane Lindall says:

    We attended about 25 games in Tacoma. At first, I found myself watching the clock, but since they turn it off so early, it is a waste. Several times, the time was down to 5 seconds and it was much longer than that before a pitch was thrown. Majors need to also change the challenge rule. Forget allowing the manager to check with anyone before challenging…

  4. […] while the Sounds did not see the 14-minute average difference in game times that Curto saw in Tacoma (possibly because of Nashville’s switch to an American League affiliate this year, meaning use of […]

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