Ava’s Angle: The impact of the new pitch timer in the MLB  

San Diego Padres will go up against the Seattle Mariners and will be one of the first games where the new pitch timer is implemented. Above is San Diego Padres pitcher, Joe Musgrove. Photo by APNewsroom.

Spring training is underway in Florida and Arizona for Major League Baseball. New rules have already made an impact on the game: specifically, the new pitch timer.  

Last year, the MLB announced various new rules that would be implemented for the 2023 season. The pitch clock rule gives pitchers 15 seconds to throw the baseball if the bases are empty, and 20 seconds if there are runners on base. For catchers, they need to be in the box behind home plate with nine seconds left on the clock, and they either can be standing or crouched in position. The rule also affects the batters; they have to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on the pitch clock. 

The first games in which the pitch clock was in effect were the Seattle Mariners against the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers against the Kansas City Royals. Both of those games finished within about two and a half hours, which is a fairly speedy duration for a nine-inning baseball game. 

The MLB’s intention with this rule is to kill off as much leisure or downtime in between pitches as possible, and they hope to speed up lengthy games. Last season, the average time of a baseball game was three hours and three minutes, with the 2021 season averaging three hours and ten minutes. This is a pretty drastic change; there hasn’t been a season game time average less than three hours since the 2015 season. 

“These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans,” MLB commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said back in September, when the rules were approved. 

There have been some immediate patterns within the first stretch of spring training games, new situations that players and pitchers will have to adjust to. For instance, Padres’ third baseman Manny Machado became the first ever player in MLB history to take a strike just because he took too long to step into the batter’s box. Pitchers will also be penalized for not throwing the pitch by the time the clock runs out, which results in a ball for the batter. 

Another instance is the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Braves hitter Cal Conley had a full count, and there were bases loaded and two outs. To end the game, Conley was called out on an automatic strike for failure to enter the batter’s box on time, which resulted in a tie game. He reacted with shocked laughter as the umpire called him out. 

Umpires have been instructed to enforce these new rules strictly, which is clearly being seen in these early spring training games. This will only show players to be ready for when the regular season comes around and these rules are still in play. Obviously, these games will not show exactly how the pitch clock will affect the long-lasting regular season, but it definitely paints a picture of how it will play out. 

New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer who is shown above is in favor of the pitch timer rule. Photo by APNewsroom.

Of course, there are all sides of controversy over this new rule. Over the past weekend, the rule has drawn criticism and created new scenarios for players on the diamond. Although some people love the long duration of baseball games, others find it boring to keep up with. New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer is one in favor of these new rulings. 

“I can work extremely quickly, or I can work extremely slow,” said Scherzer to ESPN reporters regarding the pitch clock. “There is another layer here to be able to mess with the hitter’s timing.” 

Whether these new rules are liked or not, they will be enforced by the time Opening Day comes around on March 30 and will last through the entire season. It’s up to the individual players and teams to decide how they will tackle the new challenges of the pitch clock, or if they will use this new rule to their advantage. 

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