NASCAR Speed? Changes to Pace of Play

MLB announced its new pace of play rules for the upcoming 2018 season. A pitch clock did not make the list for this season but limited mound visits along with shortening the length of time between innings and pitching changes did.  I applaud MLB for making some very soft changes in an effort to speed things up.  I’m just not sure these are the right changes.

Mound Visits
  1. Six per team per nine innings
  2. Teams receive an extra mound visit for each additional inning played
  3. Any visit to the mound by a player, coach, or manager count
Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
  1. 2:05 Local, 2:25 National, 2:55 Tie breaker/Post Season
  2. Clock starts with the last out of the inning
  3. Clock starts as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track
Batters Box Rule
  1. Still in effect, requiring hitters to keep one foot in the batters box in between pitches.

 

The MLB Players Association was involved in the discussion and agreed to these changes but yet most of the players and Managers don’t seem pleased with it.  Is it because the players know this isn’t the fix to speeding up the game?   Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said, “The rules are the rules. You obey them. You adjust. Sometimes it takes a while to adjust to them. Whether you like it or not, it doesn’t matter.”

All sides agree game times need to quicken with last years average game time creeping up just over 3 hours.  Why isn’t anybody talking about the time that instant replay is adding to game times?  Why isn’t anybody talking about the specialization of bullpens and how most starters aren’t going past 5 or 6 innings?  Are mound visits really what’s slowing the game down? Is it the fan base or future fan base that really has MLB concerned about pace of play?

I can’t remember one game I watched last year in which I thought to myself if they make another trip to the mound – I’ll switch the channel.   I tend to turn the channel during the pitching changes because to me it’s the largest amount of dead time in a nine inning game.  This year relievers are going to need to be ready and Managers are going to have to get them up and loose with a certainty that they’re coming in.   They will only get a few throws before the umpire will notify them at 25 seconds they have thrown their final warm up pitch.

There are also some grey areas that umpires will be the final voice on.   This puts a lot of pressure on them as not only do they need to keep count of balls/strikes/outs but now add in mound visits, time between innings, and watching hitters feet stay in the batters box seems like a lot to be aware of.  Umpires have to be the enforcers of this along with the ones to decide whether or not there special circumstances.

Spring Training isn’t ideal for a trial run.  The pitching changes are so frequent that a starting pitcher or starting catcher isn’t going to get used to these new parameters in such a short amount of time.  Will teams adhere to the new inning break and pitching change times in order to get players used to it before the season?

Which baseball fan are they making these changes are for?   The at home TV viewer or the ballpark fan as it will affect each one differently.  If I’m at a game can I run up the aisle use the lady’s room and get back to my seat in just over 2 minutes?  Does it lower concession sales at ballparks or do they adjust and bring more vendors down the aisles to cater to the fans in their seat?  Is it simply about keeping the TV audience more engaged with quicker commercial breaks?  I can’t wait to see if mound visits and inning breaks and pitching changes are really the answer to speeding up the game.

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