A Pitch Clock in Baseball?

A Quality of Life Improvement Or A Step Too Far?


Austin Lentz, Editor

The 2023 baseball preseason brings us the beloved sounds of wood cracking and leather smacking. However, preseason this year brings with it new rule changes. None bigger than the implementation of the pitch clock. Does this rule change bring about a brighter future for America’s past time? Or does it ruin what makes baseball great in the first place?

There is no question that baseball is a long game. The season is long, the games are long, but isn’t that what separates it from other sports?

I for one am a person that thoroughly enjoys going to the ballpark with a crew of my buddies and drinking as much overpriced beer as we can, while we try to name the 2011 NFL draft class. 

For some visitors of ballparks across the country, this isn’t the case.

Take my friend Patrick as an example. He has grown up in Minnesota his entire life, playing baseball, from youth to the college level. He sees the game differently from me, and for good reasoning. When I go to a game with him he’s locked in trying to call every pitch from our seats as he yells at the umpire, “You suck! That was a ball!”

By the 7th inning stretch I’m ready to pack up shop and move on to whatever is next in my day. This is a similar case for many people who go to the game, prompting the MLB to make a change in the addition of a pitch clock. 

The rule is as follows: A 30 second timer between batters. Pitchers need to begin their motion within 15 seconds from receiving the ball from the catcher when the bases are empty, 20 seconds if there are players on base. Batters must be in the box with at least 8 seconds on the clock. 

This isn’t the only change being brought forth by the MLB for the 2023 season. Restrictions on positioning of outfielders and bigger bases also accompany the attempt to speed up games. 

The MLB didn’t just randomly implement these changes into their league, they smartly tested them out in the minor league this past year. 

According to ESPN, the average length of a minor league game in 2021 was 3 hours and 3 minutes before the changes. At the end of the 2022 season the game time shrunk by 25 minutes. 

Taking dead time out of the game seems like the right thing to do in order to increase viewership and keep the attention of an ever growing population with dwindling attention spans. 

According to a study from Microsoft Corp. the average human attention span is 8 seconds, a number that has dropped by four seconds since 2000. 

In an era where mindless scrolling on social media and the instant gratification of a dopamine hit is seconds away, the slow pace of the game is not conducive to the world we currently live in. 

According to Forbes, MLB attendance in 2022 was down 6% from the pre-COVID 2019 season. Of course this is hard to judge for the 2022 season as fear of the pandemic was still alive and well. 

However this is still an eyebrow raising number for those running the league and the owners who are looking to make money off of the teams they have invested so heavily in. 

Even taking the 2020 season out of the equation, attendance of MLB games have continued to drop the last nine years since the latest uptick during the 2011, 2012 seasons. 

True baseball purists argue and say things along the lines of, “baseball can never be replaced, it’s America’s past time, it’s woven into the fabric of the United States. Apple pie, Baseball, America, they go hand in hand.”

As much as older generations love the sport of baseball, younger generations are not so keen on a game Snapple claims has only 18 minutes of action. 

According to Statista, Generation Z, born in the years 1997-2012, ranked the MLB fifth behind the NFL, NBA and NCAA Football and basketball. Only 32% being casual or avid fans of the MLB. 

This is an eye opening survey especially when Gen Z make up ⅕ of the United States population. These are also the people who will eventually be major customer prospects in the next 10 years for the MLB. 

The rule changes, specifically the defensive shift and pitch clock were of great disagreement from the Major League Baseball Players Association. In a statement posted to Twitter the MLBPA announced they unanimously voted against these specific rule changes. 

“Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that players raised, and as a result, Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the rules covering defensive shifts and the use of a pitch timer.”

This statement from the MLBPA deliberately shows their disagreement with the rule change. I question what the big deal is. 

Nobody in their right mind wants to watch a pitcher step off the rubber three times or a batter touch the plate with his bat three times, spin in a circle and do the hokey pokey before finally stepping up into the box. 

The MLB is looking at the big picture, overruling the vote from the MLBPA in order to address the decline in not only viewership but also attendance. 

The numbers are scary for the MLB and owners who once wore the crown for the top sport in the States over two decades ago. 

But they are making the right steps in order to attempt to regain that illustrious title. Besides who is going to complain about regaining some time in their lives, it’s not infinite.