UCB Roundtable Project: Speed Up Games?

As a part of the UCB Roundtable project, I was tasked with asking Question #5 to our panel of bloggers.  The question I asked was the following:

The MLB Commissioner’s office has come up with a new scheme to make changes to the game.  These changes are to supposedly make the game move along a little faster.  The “Pace of Game Rules” are being tested (much like the Instant Replay was last year) at the Arizona Fall League Games.  What is your opinion about the efficacy of these rules in major league games?  Would you adopt all, some, or none of these rules if you were Supreme Dictator of Baseball, and if you would, which ones and why?

The answers I received are set out below.  I will give my response to my own question in a later post on the subject.

Mark Tomasik, Retrosimba

I like very much the pace of the game rules being considered.  Most especially, I like the batter’s box rule proposal, enforcement of the 20 second rule for pitchers, and the proposed 2:05 rule between innings.  There is way too much wasted time in games now.

I admire Skip Schumaker as a player, but his silly habit of stepping out of the box after every pitch to adjust his batting gloves is unnecessary and unprofessional.  If that kind of stuff went away, who would miss it?

Ironic that this question is asked today (11/7), the 76th birthday of former Cardinals pitcher Jim Kaat.  The ‘ol Dutch Master, a Hall of Fame candidate, was ready to pitch as soon as he got the ball from the catcher.  No reason everyone else cannot do that today.

Will be interesting to see whether MLB has the guts to implement the proposed 2:05 rule between innings, especially in postseason, because that would put advertising revenue at risk.  I hope they implement it.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants

Instead of adopting new rules, why not enforce the current ones?  Jonny Gomes is a human rain delay in his own right.  He stepped out of the box after every pitch to adjust his helmet during the 2013 World Series.  There was no reason to do that at all.

The only instance in which the game can be sped up is when the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox.  For some reason, these two teams play close to four hours.  Except for when these two teams play, the game is fine as it is.  The only complaint I have would be to start the World Series games earlier.  No reason to be ending games when the east coast is asleep.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

I never hear basketball fans trying to come up with rules to limit the stoppage of play, especially in the last minutes.  I’ve never quite understood the fascination with getting the game we enjoy watching over quicker.

That’s me, though, watching what I can on TV.  Those at the games and such I could well understand having a differing opinion.

The pitch clock is stupid.  I agree, if you are going to do anything, keep the batter in the box more.  Then again, would you want a key September decided because someone couldn’t step out, refocus, try to think what is coming next?

If they really wanted to speed things up, like Mark said, they’d look at commercial breaks.  That they won’t do that shows the priorities of the game are completely skewed.

Tom Knuppel

Just play the game.  The flow will be what it is.  If anything, limit stepping out of the box and limit catchers/infielders visits to the pitcher.  I don’t like the 20 second rule for pitchers.  Everyone is different in their approach.  So be it.

Bill Ivie, I70 Baseball

The commercial breaks…that is the key here.

Next time you attend a game, watch how slow the process between innings is.  Then, attend a national broadcast game and see how painfully worse it gets.  The game has never enforced staying in the box or stepping off the mound, though it has gotten worse over the years.  The game has embraced making more money by selling more commercials and charging companies more money to broadcast games.  The time between innings is the problem, if there is one.

I’m with Daniel (Shoptaw) though.  What’s wrong with the game?  Isn’t part of the beauty of baseball that there is no clock, no time limit, no assurance that the game will be over at a certain point?

In the postseason, we saw a bit of cat-and-mouse going on with hitters trying to call time at the last possible second to disrupt a pitcher.  Institute the “pitch clock” and that goes away.  You are speeding up the game and limiting the strategy of it.  Let me reward that for you – you are trying to keep people’s attention by dumbing down the product.  That’s sad.

Leave my game alone. Get off my lawn.  Kids these days.  #oldmansyndrome

Ben Chambers,  The View From Here

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago on my blog, but since then, I had the chance to watch the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game that I recorded off MLB Network and it was an interesting experience.

First, I really like the idea of having players keep one foot in the batter’s box.  I remember one at-bat between Carlos Martinez and Joey Votto (I can’t remember if it was last year or this year) where I was just shocked at how quick Votto would step back in and Martinez would throw the pitch.  Now that I’ve mentioned it, I want to try and find that video.  That said, the players are just sliding back in the box instead of stepping all the way out of it.  The time that is has improved is minimal.  If instead, you could require a player to keep one foot planted, it could make a much larger change.

I’m also a big fan of a pitcher not having to throw 4 intentional balls for a walk.  It’s not necessary, and although it’s another minimal change, it’ll be a nice one.  It throws off the rhythm of the pitcher, and it’ll start to eliminate someone trying to “pitch around” someone because they don’t want to throw the intentional walk.  The manager can just tell the ump to send him to first base.

I don’t like a pitch clock or an in-between innings clock, but I think TV is the reason that in-between innings has lengthened.  If they could just require TV broadcasts to cut out 1-2 commercials between innings, and the players on the field understood that they had less time, then that would definitely speed it up by itself without requiring a clock telling them when to come back.

Doug Vollet,  Baseball Geek in Galveston

I agree with Bill and others that commercials are the key.  There’s plenty of advertising revenue to be gained in other areas these days, such as the internet, and many people in both the eastern and central time zones are often asleep due to this one thing.  I left a few playoff game to crawl in bed.  I also forced myself to stay awake during the few regular season Cards games I caught on ESPN, when I would otherwise be sleeping.

An earlier start wouldn’t hurt either, but then it’s not in “prime time”.

I like the one foot in the box rule.

Don’t limit mound visits, especially catcher visits.  Where would Yadi be without his ability to go to the mound and calm down or instruct a pitcher?

I’m not a fan of the pitchers’ clock per se, but I would like to see it experimented with, in say, spring training.  I never like to dismiss an idea out of hand before it is even given a chance.  It may work better than we think it will.

I really like the elimination of four balls for an intentional walk.  That one is must have.

Dan Buffa, The Cardinals Nerve Center @ The Cards Conclave

I’m all for speeding up commercials but I know that won’t happen with the growing desire for more money and product placement.

I don’t like the pitcher clock because they already have enough of a hard time getting it right.  Let’s leave them alone.

Making the hitter resist leaving the box and pondering the meaning of life wouldn’t be a bad idea but I don’t want it to affect a game I love just the way it is.

When I am at a ballpark I do notice the delay and slow climb back into action but that’s when I’ll direct my attention around the stadium or into another avenue of thought.

The greatness of baseball lies in the patience of the game and the resistance to speed the action up.  It’s slow but for a reason.  It’s methodical in so many ways that taking too much away may deprive it of the exact reason six months a year we are addicted to it.  I won’t take that risk.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner

A great question, Marilyn.  I will strongly agree with Daniel on this one, just simply enforce the rules that are already in the book.  When you look back at the pace of games in the sixties, for example, the batters stepped into the box and stayed there until retired, reached base or something happened to their equipment.  The stepping out and gathering themselves was a relatively rare event, and not done by a lot of 8th place hitters.  There is a narcissistic element of the game today that should be looked at, but the rules to solve the problem are already there in ink and worked fine until umpires quit following them.

These new proposed rules, like the collision rule at home plate or replay, are an attempt to force a specific behavior or outcome into a game without consideration of the actual flow of the game.  After watching a couple of Salt River games, the obsession over the pitch clock is ridiculous.  I can understand it a bit in at time game like basketball or football (though curiously absent from hockey), but it has no place in baseball, outside the existing empty base 12 second rule (8.04).

The pace of the game can be improved by shortening the time between innings, but that impacts revenues.  Though it has the least impact to the actual game, it significantly impacts the business revenues of the game, so that won’t happen.

If I was Commissioner for a Day, I would instruct the umpires to call the high strike, don’t grant time to a batter for the purposes of adjusting his hitting gloves, and eliminate replay (thus cutting down an unnecessary trip by the manager each time there is a close play).  In other words, don’t keep trying to fix what isn’t broken.

I would also eliminate the DH and interleague play, but those don’t relate to the question at hand.

There you have it folks,  the bloggers speak on proposed Pace of Game rules.

Thank you for reading.

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  1. UCB October Project: Fall Roundtable — United Cardinal Bloggers

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