NEW YORK– We are less than a week into MLB Spring Training exhibition games being played, and the leading topic everywhere you go is in regards to the pitch clock. Yep, that ‘shot clock looking square’ you see on your television while watching games is the pitch clock. But, the good news is Major League Baseball is rumored to have the clock slightly moved out of view for fans watching on television, once the regular season gets here.
So, let’s begin with the rundown. MLB decided to add a pitch clock to big league games, in hopes of speeding up the time of play. This rule, along with many others approved by MLB, have been tested in the minor leagues for multiple seasons, with all, if not, most, showing positive results.
And to go into specifics, here are the rules regarding the pitch clock: the clock starts from 30 seconds in between each batter, and in between each pitch, it winds down from 15 seconds, (20 seconds with a runner on base).
“A pitcher can be penalized with a ball if he hasn’t started his motion when the clock hits zero, and a hitter can be issued a strike if he isn’t in the batter’s box and “alert to the pitcher” with eight seconds remaining on the clock” – Listed on ESPN with more details.
So, how has it gone so far out of the gate?
The average time for Spring Training exhibition games this past weekend was two hours and 38 minutes. A win for the fans, since the majority would rather get home and avoid traffic, but how about the athletes on the diamond? What are their thoughts on it?
“We kind of knew what this was going to look like, and seeing how this was going to be implemented and really the power the pitcher has now,” New York Mets 38-year-old ace Max Scherzer said this past weekend at Clover Park, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “I can completely dictate pace. The hitter having only one timeout changes the complete dynamic of the hitter and the pitcher dynamic. I love it.”
“I can work extremely quickly or I can work extremely slow. There is another layer here to be able to mess with the hitter’s timing.”
“I work fairly fast, so I’m not so worried about the seconds,” New York Yankees left-hander Carlos Rodón explained during a press conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field, in Tampa, Florida.
“What’s gonna be nice is the games are gonna go by quicker, so that will be nice for the fans and you guys; you won’t have to sit there for that long.”
Rodón, recipient of the 2021 National League Starting Pitcher Latino MVP Award, added: “It’s to keep the viewer entertained and I understand that high action and offense is great. But, my job is to get guys out, so offense is not great for me. So I guess I’m on the opposing side of it, just because of my job description. I get what they’re (MLB) trying to do, make the game quicker, higher action. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
Considering these rules have been tested in the minor leagues, I believe a substantial number of young and upcoming big leaguers will make immediate impacts with their clubs once given the opportunity. I say this, because they are fully acclimated to the rules, as these young prospects were brought up with it and that’s all they know, mentally and physically.
On the other hand, a number of veteran pitchers/hitters are already going through their adjustment phases with it day-by-day. The proven star pitching talents won’t have an issue.
Perfect example: Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, “works fast today at 35,” a longtime baseball scout said to me this past weekend. “Look at the best pitchers and they all have something in common, good rhythm due to quickness.”
We’ve all heard the saying ‘baseball players are creatures of habit’, so what does that period of change, and adjustment look like for the sport?
“Kids mimic big league players, so players of today in the big leagues have only seen guys working slow on the mound or in the box,” the longtime scout elaborated. “Gonna take some time to correct that.”
He then went into depth on how pitchers working fast must have great command: “In Sunday’s game between the Dodgers and Cubs. Los Angeles had more walks (11), compared to hits (10). Chicago’s pitchers had no command when trying to speed up.”
This leads me to wonder if we will see an increase in walks, and perhaps hit by pitches. On the second point, if so, hopefully MLB views this day by day, and alters what needs to be changed in regards to player safety.
Time will tell just how significant the pitch clock will impact our game, but all we can do now is sit back, enjoy and critique all of our baseball observations. Spring Training is here!
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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports
Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and co-host Robert Rizzo
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