Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
Such is the case for Major League Baseball, which instituted new rules this year to shorten the length of games, or increase the pace of games, depending on how you look at things.
And the rule changes are working, if data from the first month of the season and most of the second month of season are any indication.
The rules changes are simple:
Half-innings must start immediately at the end of the commercial breaks, meaning pitchers and batters have to be ready to go when given the signal that the TV audience is back.
Batters have to keep one foot in the batter’s box in a complete at-bat, rather than stepping out after every pitch to readjust batting gloves or check stock tips are whatever it was they were doing before.
That’s it. The league stopped short of instituting a 20-second pitch clock, with which it experimented in the Arizona Fall League and which it may just get around to someday.
That move may not be necessary. Average game time has been reduced from 3:02 in 2014 to 2:54 in April and to 2:52 in the first three weeks of May. That’s 10 minutes per game, and that is for 162 games played by 30 teams. There is a lot of math in there, but the point is cutting 10 minutes a game adds up.
The time between the third out of one half-inning and the first pitch of the next half inning has been reduced from 3:30 to 3:18. There are a minimum of 18 breaks of that sort per game, and those 12 seconds add up to three and a half minutes saved per game.
The time between pitches has been reduced by a second from last season. There are between 200 and 300 pitches thrown in an average game. Two hundred seconds is another three minutes plus saved.
Baseball has suffered for many years now from its slow pace. While it is attractive to those who have the time to appreciate it, it is unattractive to those for whom time is a tyrant, and for whom action-packed video games fill the empty hours.
The pace also created a lack of interest among young players who play sports, all the way down to the youth level. Kids play what they watch, and kids weren’t watching baseball as much as they were soccer, football and basketball.
It helps baseball that it has a new set of stars tearing the league up, guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. It probably helps baseball that the Cubs are a viable team again. It probably helps baseball that it has less of a concussion issue than football does.
But the game needed to become more interesting on a daily basis, and by picking up the pace, it has done so.
Now baseball needs to form a group with the other major sports to figure out a way to make beer less expensive at the stadium. .