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The Pitch Clock Speeds Up MLB Games

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Major League Baseball implemented a pitch clock for the 2023 season in an effort to speed up the pace of play. Based on the first few weeks of the season, this new rule change appears to be having its intended effect. According to an analysis by ESPN, the average time of MLB games has dropped by more than 20 minutes compared to last season. The average game time is now down to 2 hours and 38 minutes, compared to nearly 3 hours in recent previous seasons.

The pitch clock requires pitchers to begin their pitching motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty, or 20 seconds if there are runners on base. Prior to the pitch clock, pitchers could often take 30 seconds or more between pitches with little consequence. This clock has forced pitchers to be more efficient and quicken the pace of the game. As a result, there are nearly 240 fewer pitches per game in 2023 compared to last season, according to the ESPN study.

Fans and media members seem to be embracing the quicker pace of games. CBS Sports suggests the pitch clock is making games more enjoyable for fans both at the ballpark and watching on TV. By removing some of the dead time between pitches, the action is more continuous and engaging. There are fewer drawn-out lulls in the action that can cause fans' attention to wander.

However, not everyone believes the pitch clock is having only positive effects. Some players and fans believe it is altering baseball strategy and forcing pitchers to rush their mechanics. An article from Texas Standard quotes some experts who think MLB was not "broken" and did not need such an extreme rule change to speed up the pace of play. They argue baseball is meant to be a slower, more methodical game, and that the pitch clock fundamentally alters the viewing experience.

On the whole though, the consensus seems to be that the pitch clock is achieving MLB's stated goal of creating a crisper, more entertaining product on the field. Slightly shorter games that still include the same amount of action are appealing to newer fans and help maintain interest from casual viewers. For a league looking to capture the attention of younger audiences and reverse declining ratings, the pitch clock appears to be a success in the early going.

After the first regular season, early returns suggest it will make baseball more efficient without significantly sacrificing strategy or altering the fabric of the game. For the majority of MLB teams, players and fans, the increased pace of play is a welcome change.

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