Of all of MLB’s rule changes for the 2023 season, the one that has had the most noticeable impact on the game so far is the pitch clock. The average game is down to a hair over two and a half hours in 2023, compared to just over three hours on average in 2022.
For such a drastic change to the game, generally the response to the pitch clock has been positive, with pitch clock advocates enjoying both the snappier action of games with little downtime and earlier bedtimes. However, some fans are unhappy that “a day at the park” has become “an abbreviated afternoon at the park,” especially those who have to travel a considerable distance to be there. We polled the LL staff to get people’s opinions and found about the same breakdown as seems to be in the general public: most are in favor, but there are a couple dissidents.
GENERALLY PRO: Kate, Zach M, Anders, Shay, Evan, John
Kate: I am emotionally scarred from years of watching Robinson Canó’s fan dance with his batting gloves, and I think Luis García belongs in a lightless underground chamber as punishment for his “rock the baby” routine. Messing with timing is fun, messing with the time-space continuum is not. And anything that punishes James Karinchak for existing is my kind of rule. Also, seeing Ohtani become the first player in history to get a violation in the same game both as a batter and as a pitcher provided my lone chuckle in yesterday’s loss.
Zach M: Are you reading this at work? Because my feelings about the pitch clock are borderline graphic. As an east-coast fan of a west-coast team, the difference between going to bed at 12:30 and 1:15 is enormous. The eighth inning of Opening Day showed us that the clock does not zap the tension at baseball’s center, but rather heightens it. This is the best thing to happen to baseball since Ken Griffey, Jr.
Anders: I am a single-issue voter and that single issue is let me watch west coast baseball games from the east coast without having to sacrifice my sleep. OK, not really, but the pitch clock helps with that! I love baseball, which is why I want the baseball I’m given to be more valuable. Cutting out the excess time accomplishes that.
Shay: If you would’ve asked me prior to Opening Day I may not feel as strongly about this, but the moment the crowd began to count down the pitch clock à la counting down a shot clock in basketball I completely flipped to pro pitch clock. The rules were changed this off-season to make the game a faster-paced, more exciting product and the fans at T-Mobile Park showed us just that.
Evan: The year is 2023 and a decade of growing addiction to social media devices and 24 hour news cycles has deteriorated attention spans down to their base level. For years baseball has felt like the slowest of the major sports. Lacking the dramatic, breakneck pace of NFL play, the frenzied back and forth of the NBA or the random chance of a real, fist to face fight like the NHL, baseball has historically been a deeply patient affair. In person, at the stadium, the pitch clock can feel overly expedient, even intrusive; It turns a marathon into a long sprint and may leave the viewer insatiated. But the wider reality is that most people are watching on TV, viewing the experience as a live event through a screen. For everyone outside the stadium, the pitch clock is a godsend. No more faffing about. No more adjusting batting gloves after every pitch. No more bizarre and impenetrable monologues from Jay Buhner. Above all else, if a game starts at 7 PM, it is over before 10 and I am in bed a happy, sleepy boy. This is a brave new world where baseball is a snappy, striking, compelling sport that can stand next to the highlight reel pace of the NFL and challenge the status quo for a greater share of American attention. This is a viewing experience with the capacity to grow its audience. This is good. Now bring me the robot umps so we stop guessing at things we can properly measure and bring baseball closer to fulfilling its true modern potential.
John: I have now watched around 100 games with the pitch clock, perhaps 1,000 innings or more given the many minor league games I will hop in and out of to focus on a particular player. It is, in my opinion, a sensational boon to the sport, that adds intrigue and strategic complexity while also improving the viewing experience for the viewing audience in person and on the tv as well as radio.
GENERALLY ANTI: Lou, Eric
Lou: Look, I have some opinions about why this is a bad rule, but at the core it comes down to the fact that I just don’t enjoy it at this point. I’ll explain both components, but I want to start by saying that I’m not against shorter games (I mean, I personally like long games, but it’s a fine goal and shorter games benefit a lot of people). However, I’m against introducing time-based rules into an event-based game. If I want to watch a sport where the clock is a player, I’ll watch basketball. If we want more action, limit the number of pitchers a team can carry, doctor the ball, whatever! This isn’t the only way to speed up pace of play, nor is it my preferred way. Also, I want “ball” and “strike” to have stable definitions, sue me.
All that said, I’m mostly anti because I don’t like baseball as much with the pitch clock. At the stadium, my eyes wander to the shiny counting-down thing, so it’s harder for me to focus on the pitcher and batter and zone in on the game play. Watching numbers count down makes me feel vaguely anxious, and I don’t prefer feeling anxious at the ballpark. The pitch clock is literally everywhere you look in the stadium.
More than anything, I’m a radio-first fan, and I find the pitch clock is significantly impacting the radio broadcast so far. A half to whole at-bat is over by the time the broadcast comes back from commercials. The announcers haven’t found a storytelling rhythm yet, so the whole thing feels rushed. If/when those kinks get smoothed out, I may well like it fine. I don’t plan to make a fuss about it, since at the end of the day I want baseball to make my life better. But so far, if you’re asking, it’s not for me.
Eric: Listen, I’ll be honest up front. My reasons for not liking the speed-running of a baseball game are entirely selfish. I wholeheartedly recognize that taking 30 minutes off a game is good for literally everyone involved in playing the game and working the game at the stadium. I’m happy for everyone who gets home earlier and has more time for themselves or with their families. I’m happy the players can get just a little bit more rest and recovery time between games.
I know I’m going to get roasted for this and get called a boomer (mostly by the rest of the staff, heh), but the in-person experience of an MLB game has changed significantly for the worse. Whether you are a casual or diehard fan, suddenly there is less time to be spent in one of your favorite places and it was taken from you without you having any say in it. Feels bad!
Here are some more admittedly selfish takes. As a parent of two small kids, I feel actively pushed out by MLB and the Mariners from actually watching the games and from taking my kids to the games and having them grow their interest in baseball. Granted, having kids was definitely my choice, but you know how you actually grow the game? It’s not pitch clocks. It’s making the game accessible from anywhere (my kingdom for a legitimate Mariners-only streaming option) and affordable-to-go-to games so kids can have fun experiences and create core memories of why baseball is fun in the first place. I’m aware that maybe it’s just the phase of life I’m in and that when my kids are a bit older, taking them to a game will be more worthwhile. But, many mid-level income and lower parents just aren’t willing to go to the effort of packing up small kids to go to the ballpark and spend anywhere from $50-100 to get in (plus concessions) for a game that might only last two hours. The “less baseball to be watched” aspect doesn’t affect people who can afford season tickets as much or are otherwise wealthy. For families who can only afford to go to one or two games a season, it feels like a significant difference.
If you want to watch a timed sport, guess what? Pick any other sport! That was one of several very unique things about baseball (just like how not every field of play is uniform). There was no clock. It’s been called a pastime for exactly that reason. Can we just turn the pitch clocks off Friday through Sunday? Why are we rushing on the weekend?
Additionally, I am suspicious of MLB’s motives in introducing three significant rule changes in one season. For one thing, it feels a bit reckless and chaotic to throw that many changes into effect in a game that has evolved so gradually over the many decades. And they certainly aren’t going to be reducing commercial times, so they’re just subtracting playing time but keeping all the non-game play time the same? This may be cynical, but it’s only a matter of time before the extra time saved from game play is sold to advertisers.
Again, I am happy for the people who are benefitting from these changes, mostly the players and team/stadium employees. And hey, it helps out those who cover the games, especially beat writers or anyone who covers the majority of the games. It will be a rarity that LL game recappers will be hitting publish after midnight now. That’s good! Like I said, my beefs are selfish and mostly centered around the in-person fan experience at games. The pitch clock issue contains multitudes.
My preferred changes this season would have been eliminating the shift and also nuking the Manfred Man extra innings rule from orbit. The decline in quality of on-field action has been a bigger problem than pace of play has ever been.
Mostly pro, but here are some tweaks I’d like to see/concerns I have:
Kate: I know there’s been some complaints about the two-hour games where I feel like two and a half hours is more the sweet spot, but I think those games are just going to feel more like outliers at the beginning of the season. I think we could probably expand the timing on the pitch clock with runners on because it’s not fun to watch pitchers melt down, unless said pitcher is James Karinchak. MLB pitcher Trevor May is adamant the pitch clock needs to be 20 seconds always; anything shorter doesn’t allow the pitcher to shake and adjust, and I think he has a fair point, as he does about MLB treating Double-A and the bigs the same. As far as rule tweaks, I think there have to be some more clear definitions of what constitutes a “quick pitch” and clear criteria for when pitchers will be penalized for them.
Also, something Lou said above twigged something for me, about having one’s eyes wander to the shiny-counting-down thing, because I’ve noticed myself doing that too and I have to actively tell my brain to look at the pitcher, not at the clock, almost like having to chase away intrusive thoughts. I wonder for folks with ADHD or anxiety if maybe the clock is similarly intrusive? If anyone is having that experience, please drop a comment about your experience, as so often the disability community is the last to be thought of, if thought of at all, in sweeping changes like this.
Lou: Yes— my spouse has ADHD and found the in-person pitch clock experience to be extremely intrusive and challenging. I’d love to see a setup where it’s on the big screen and maybe 1 other place, so you could choose seats to avoid that stimulus if you want.
Connor: Yeah, I think the concept is solid (though I wasn’t sold until I saw it in action) and we’ve seen how much of a blast it is when the crowd gets involved in it, but I still think it’s a bit too quick. Maybe extend it to 20 seconds with the bases empty and 25 with runners on? I’m just spitballing here.
Are you pro pitch clock? Do you think it’s a generally good idea but needs refining? Do you want to take to the pitch clock at T-Mobile like the Luddites to weaving machines? Sound off in the comments!
Are you pro pitch clock?
This poll is closed
Yes, give me all the shorter, more action-packed games
No, if you want a timed sport go watch basketball
Yes, but I think it needs some tweaking.