By Michael Model
Over the last few years, an additional emphasis has been placed on reducing the length of the average MLB game. Since 2004, the average length of a MLB game has increased by over sixteen minutes, from 2.85 hours in 2004 to 3.13 hours in 2014. These numbers have concerned many highly-ranked MLB officials because MLB television rankings have been on the decline. During late 1980s, World Series viewership was around 35 million people. However, over the last twenty years, World Series viewership has dropped down to the minuscule fifteen million at which it has hovered over the last few years. In response to this trend, the MLB created the MLB Pace of Game Committee to find a way to shorten the games. Last Friday, they announced two changes to be implemented during the 2015 season.
The first change was that the batter must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times. This rule will prevent players from stepping out of the batter’s box and wasting ten, fifteen seconds walking around the home-plate area. The second change that was made created a timer of 2:25 for local games and 2:45 for national games between innings. This will limit extra warm-up pitches and keep the game going as well. Although these steps are certainly in the right direction, some players have noted that they tend to favor the pitcher over the batter. David Ortiz stated that his walks give him time to think about the pitcher, and what to expect with the next pitch. Overall, Ortiz feels that if you take away a hitter’s freedom to think, he will get out 70% more often than he would if given the time to reflect. This is one reason why I believe two more restrictions should be added.
In 2013, the average Arizona Fall League game lasted 2:52. In 2014 the average Fall League game was 2:52. This ten minute shortage occurred due to the implementation of multiple time-saving rules. One of these I particularly liked was a twenty-second pitch clock. During the fall, pitchers had twenty seconds between pitches. This rule kept pitchers on their toes, and unlike the batter rule, it put the pressure on the pitcher. By using this rule with the batter’s box rule, pressure will be equivalent on both sides, thus reducing bias towards either side. In addition, it was the penalty for taking too long that kept the pitcher interested in keeping time. The penalty was a ball, thus changing any pitchers approach because an 1-0 count is much more predictable for a hitter than 0-0, because the pitcher doesn’t want to fall back 2-0. I think type of penalty would coerce a player into following the rules more. For the batter’s box, a fine of $500 was rumored. In response to that, Ortiz hinted that he’d pay every time. However, if the penalty was a strike, a hitter would probably not object because they’d be hurting the team more than themselves because pitchers control the at-bats, and they have more options if the batter is on the ropes.
The other change I would make, would be to create a minimum number of batters a pitcher must face before being removed from a game. Nowadays, it is very common to see managers mix and match righty-lefty match-ups, especially late in games with the heart of the order at the plate. While usually efficient in getting the job done, it severely slows down the game. This is because each new pitcher requires about 2:30 to get to the mound from the bullpen and take his warm-up pitches. Thus, by eliminating two of these one-and-dones a game, the MLB can cut about ten minutes out of the game, using this tactic alone. Overall, although taking an advantage from the manager of the pitching team, making a minimum batters faced requirement will shorten game times. In addition, Commissioner Rob Manfred has talked about eliminating shifts to give offenses an advantage. By eliminating one-and-dones, managers can fix their line-ups so that they can have favorable righty-lefty match-ups with relievers. This would hopefully add some late-game offense because the pitchers will not be able to match up with everybody.