Starting in spring training, Major League Baseball began a new era of play with the implementation of the pitch clock. Historically, the only clock that governed the sport was the sun, but over time changes like stadium lights have steered the game in the direction that led to this new era.
Now for the first time, there is an actual physical clock involved like all of the other major North American sports. However, the purpose of the on-field timer is to enforce rules that had already been on the books for years. The ultimate aim of the new clock is to speed up the sport and inject some action in what can often turn into a long, drawn-out snooze-fest.
With nine games now in the books for the Detroit Tigers, Bless You Boys’ staff convened for its weekly roundtable discussion on how we feel about the new rule. Here is what each of us had to say.
Brady McAtamney: I like it. Games going by faster is good for the product. It’s not less baseball, it’s less standing around and stalling. Can’t be mad at it. Besides, shorter games mean more time during the day to wallow in frustration about my favorite team being pathetic.
Ashley MacLennan: Oh my god I love it. I hate how much I love it. Games no longer feel like they’re a slog, I didn’t realize I would like it this much but I hate to give Rob Manfred credit for anything, so it hurts me.
Peter Kwasniak: I like it. It’s taken out so much dead time. I like games done in under 3 hours. In particular, when taking in a game in person, especially with the family, I hated having to go in the 7th inning because the kids had lost interest. Now it’s easy to stay the whole game. The only real “downside” is that you miss a full inning and maybe more getting concessions or going to the bathroom but that’s a minor tradeoff in the grand scheme.
Jay Markle: Having already spent a season watching games with a pitch clock in force in the minor leagues, I’m fully on board. The slower pace of play never bothered me, slow baseball is a certain kind of zen, but most MiLB fans got accustomed to the clock quickly. Once players do too, it will almost never have an impact on the on-field results and the faster game will help increase action, and correspondingly, casual interest. At the end of the day, I’ll support anything that improves the health of the game, even if it’s not what I would have chosen.
The best example of increased intensity for the Tigers so far is long reliever Mason Englert. The dude pitches like his hair is on fire and it’s pretty darn entertaining. Plus, we’ll now be treated to moments like his utterly savage stare-down of Yordan Alvarez. I would have run through a wall for Englert after that pitch, one which would have never happened without pace-of-play rules and the pitch clock in place.
Trevor Hooth: I love it. We saw these growing pains last year in the minors. The early season can be tough to watch because the pitchers and hitters are still getting used to it. Once they got used to it last year there were very few issues. It speeds the game up, but it doesn’t really take much away in my experience watching. You hardly notice it once everyone finds that rhythm.
David Rosenberg: In person, the pitch clock really bothered me, but it’s nice to see games finish around 2.5 hours, especially when the Tigers are getting destroyed in most of them. It’s still weird to see umpires call a strike or ball without a pitch being thrown, but it doesn’t happen enough for me to complain about it.
I don’t like the new rules, personally, but they seem to have had an overall positive impact on the game and the public’s perception of the game, which was the idea in the first place. If it means more people are willing to watch baseball, I’m on board. There needs to be some proof, though.
Cameron Kaiser: I love the pitch clock. There’s really nothing that’s interesting about watching a grown man adjust himself for 30-plus seconds.
Mr. Sunshine: There’s something so offputting about watching a batter being called out for standing in a spot but not being ready yet.
Rob Rogacki: I really like it, though I think they could maybe add a couple of seconds to the timer. It doesn’t seem like there have been any automatic strikeouts or walks of major consequence yet, but there certainly will be at some point. Additionally, I’ve seen people mention that the game feels a bit frenetic to watch in person. There is a sweet spot to be found with the clock, and I wonder if MLB has overcorrected ever so slightly.
Patrick O’Kennedy: I like the pitch clock generally, but I don’t think they need to require the batter to be “alert to the pitcher”. Who cares if the batter is ready? Just go ahead and pitch and if he’s not ready, that’s on the batter. There will be calls where the umpire calls a strike because of a questionable interpretation of the batter’s alertness. But the pace of the game is much better than previously. That being said, none of the rule changes make up for the sheer stupidity of the ghost runner.
Sunshine: 1000% that last line, Patrick.
Jay: “Who cares if the batter is ready,” is a dangerous line to walk. Maybe, “Who cares if the batter is ready with 5 seconds left on the clock.”
Brandon Day: I was fine with the pitch clock in the minors, and so I expected to have a few issues with it in the majors. I mostly like it ok, even if it feels unnecessary to me, but I’d like a longer clock in the 8th and 9th inning. Tense late-game scenarios in baseball need to breathe, and instead, they feel rushed and I live in fear of particularly important games being impacted by something dumb like a hitter getting something in his eye and having already burned his timeout. That sort of thing.
I also agree with Patrick that I don’t know why the hitter needs to be on the clock. He’s not starting the action, so these weird judgments as to whether he’s “alert to the pitcher” are completely unnecessary. If he’s not ready, the pitcher can still throw the pitch, so just leave that part out of it.
For the most part, it’s been a winner though. People seem to like it watching at home, and maybe a bit less when seeing a game live, and I’m probably going to feel the same. A two-and-a-half-hour game doesn’t leave much time to stroll around the park a bit, get something to eat, etc. Now you might miss two innings leaving your seat for 20-30 minutes, and I expect I’m not going to like this quite as much when I’m actually in attendance.
Adam Dubbin: Admittedly, I’m among the most bearish on the idea of the pitch clock and I still don’t love it, but it is warming up to me. The opening day game against the Rays, which I was in attendance for, was only two hours long and I felt a bit short-changed by the experience. Of course, the Tigers being the Tigers didn’t help much either.
However, I do recognize that there are some pitchers out there who were clogging up the game and needed to be compelled to get with the program, so it is my hope that eventually the rules are made less rigid to accommodate the changing tides of the game once a new homeostasis is achieved. So for now, a solid majority of folk seem to like it, so I’m just going to resist my hipster tendencies and go with the flow on this one.
Frisbee Pilot: Takes out dead time. Keeps everyone more focused. There have been violations, but not many. Some pitchers have learned how to screw with hitters a bit, and that’s fun. Eventually, we won’t even notice it.
And, as for Brandon strolling around the park... what are you there for, to ride the Ferris Wheel or to watch a baseball contest? Sheesh! You wanna go look at the statues, get there a little earlier!
Peter: Yeah, sorry kiddos. I know you’re thirsty and really want to ride that carousel, but that’s not what we came here to do. Now sit down and let’s cheer on Baez before he strikes out for the fourth time on a ball on the dirt.
Brandon: I’m not the supposed baseball fan pushing for less baseball you heathen dog. I’ll take problems that didn’t exist for $400, Alex.
Frisbee: Same amount of baseball in a smaller package (temporally)! Greater concentration of baseball in actions per minute. It’s science.
Brandon: If they’d just go to two-strike strikeouts and three-ball walks, we could get these damn games over even faster and get back to selling us merch.
Frisbee: Now who’s the game-altering heathen? Case dismissed.
Zane Harding: The quicker I can watch the Tigers lose, the better.
How do you feel about the new pitch clock? Tell us in the comments below.