Recently, it was announced that Minor League Baseball plans to institute a “pitch clock” during the 2015 season.
This will be used as a trial and – if it goes well – could be brought to Major League Baseball in an effort to speed up the game.
In 2014, the average length of a MLB game was 3 hours and 8 minutes, up from 2 hours and 51 minutes in 2004.
It seems three hours is the threshold length of tolerance for a sporting event. Anything longer is too slow-paced for fans and their dwindling attention spans.
Ideally, MLB could do some damage control to those that think their game is “boring” by making the games faster. I would think the actual plan would aim to get games to be in the 2 hour and 45 minute to 3 hour range.
But if faster = better, let’s make baseball the best game it can be with these suggestions:
1) No “Kiss Cam”. Commercials breaks matter. If there is less time between innings, the total length of game can be reduced. Just taking out 30 seconds between half innings saves around eight minutes. Less time for commercials means less time for gimmicks to keep the fans entertained during pauses in play. If you want to kiss someone, go find a plate of spaghetti in a back alley someplace.
2) Keep 100 baseballs behind the pitcher. When balls get scuffed or knocked out of play, the umpire has to put new baseballs into play. That supply comes from his “umpire satchel” or whatever the actual name is. If the satchel empties, a ball boy has to run out and give the umpire more balls. If we keep a giant case of baseballs right behind the pitcher, he can get his own ball. Think of the entertainment value of watching a pitcher scrounge around for a new ball from the case in disgust while the hitter rounds the bases. Anyone concerned about the ball case affecting any play of the field should calm down. There is a hill in deep center of Minute Maid Park. There is a giant wall in left field of Fenway Stadium. There are catwalks that get hit by batted balls in Tropicana Field. The ball case would be part of the fun.
3) Men with stun guns. Keep a man with a stun gun just outside the batter box, behind the batter. The batter is allowed to step out once per at bat. Anything more and the “stunner” is allowed to use the stun gun on the player. The pitcher is allowed to throw a pitch while the batter is convulsing.
4) No more than three pitches per at bat. A walk hasn’t always been four balls. Sure, it’s been four for well over a century, but the game is allowed to change. So from now on two balls is a walk and two strikes is a strikeout. Batters can “earn” a strikeout by fouling off a ball as well. This makes sense because the batter shouldn’t earn another try just because he couldn’t get the ball into the field of play. You don’t get an extra down in the NFL if you throw a pass out of bounds. If it’s a huge concern, just move the walls right up to the foul line (more fans = more money!).
5) One Relief Pitcher. Since a pitcher will be throwing less pitches per game, there needs to be fewer pitching changes throughout. Also, when the relief pitcher is brought in, he must pitch within twenty seconds. It’s not like bullpen is that much different.
6) Two substitutions (non-pitcher) per game. No more of this “double switching” and “defensive replacements” all willy nilly. The manager gets to make two non-pitching substitutions per game. However, injuries do happen. If the manager has to do a third change, the player being subbed for cannot play for the next seven days.
These are just starting points and hopefully we can try these out in the minor leagues before they get instituted in MLB.
If you have any additional ideas to improve the pace of play, share them in the comments.