MLB Considers Reducing Pitch Clock with Runners on Base
Commissioner Rob Manfred Optimistic About Rule Changes
Major League Baseball’s competition committee is currently discussing a proposal to reduce the pitch clock with runners on base from 20 seconds to 18 for the upcoming season. This move aims to address the recent increase in the average time of games, which rose by seven minutes towards the end of the previous season, according to sources from ESPN.
The competition committee, consisting of six team representatives, four players, and one umpire, also heard a proposal to decrease mound visits from five per game to four, sources added. However, the 15-second clock without runners on base is expected to remain unchanged.
If the committee decides to implement these rule changes, players will be given a 45-day notice before they take effect. Currently, players are discussing the proposal and are expected to provide suggestions for potential adjustments to the committee.
The first spring training game is scheduled for February 22, with the regular season opening on March 20-21 in Seoul, where the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will face off in a two-game series.
While some players have expressed concerns about the reduction in the pitch clock, citing the increase in pitching injuries during the 2023 season, MLB has refuted the notion that the accelerated pace of the game was the cause. As the majority of seats on the committee are held by team representatives, who formed the committee during negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement in 2022, the league has significant influence over rule changes.
Although several pitchers not present in the most recent competition-committee meeting have indicated they would be more open to a reduction in the pitch clock with runners on base if it were balanced with a longer clock when the bases are empty, MLB has shown no inclination to deviate from the 15-second rule, sources revealed.
The implementation of the pitch clock in the 2023 season was widely regarded as a success, resulting in a decrease in the average time of a nine-inning game from 3 hours and 4 minutes to 2 hours and 40 minutes. However, as hitters and pitchers adjusted to the new rules, the game time gradually increased throughout the season. These rules allowed hitters one timeout per plate appearance and pitchers two disengagements from the mound with runners on base.
In April and May, the average game time was 2 hours and 37 minutes, which increased to 2 hours and 39 minutes in June, 2 hours and 40 minutes in July, 2 hours and 41 minutes in August, and 2 hours and 44 minutes in September.
Out of the 1,094 pitch-clock violations in 2023, 14% occurred with runners on base. On average, pitchers began their deliveries with 6.5 seconds remaining on the 15-second clock and 7.3 seconds left on the 20-second clock.
During this year’s minor league games, a 14-second clock was used with the bases empty and 18 seconds with runners on base. In the final month of the Triple-A season, a universal 17-second clock was tested. In the Arizona Fall League, MLB utilized a 15-second clock with the bases empty and 18 seconds with runners on base.
On average, major league teams made 2.3 mound visits per game, with visits exceeding four in only 2% of games.