Do pitch clocks work in baseball? Minor league games were 25 minutes shorter in 2022
Pitch clocks are an abomination in baseball, but they have undeniably worked in the minor leagues. Will that translate to MLB success?
Baseball games have gotten too long. That is a truth that even traditionalists like myself simply can not ignore. Although flirting with three hours for years now, since 2016, the average MLB game length has been over that mark with last season’s 3:10 representing the high-water mark.
The reasons for the increase in game length are several, and while the generally-blamed culprits of batters taking too long to adjust their gloves and get back in the box, or pitchers making multiple pick-off attempts to first base are certainly facts, these are not the main reasons that the game is slower.
The chief elements that mire the game down are the modern preference for shorter work out of pitchers, leading to four, five, or even six arms being used over the nine innings paired with the introduction of the video replay challenge system, have both added roughly 15 minutes to the average game.
But even a traditionalist must be a realist. The video replay is here to stay, and although there will be some pitchers who prefer longer work, teams and pitchers suddenly agreeing to up their production from around 80 pitches per outing to around 100 is simply never going to happen. So something has to give.
Pitch clocks, while in use in NCAA ball for several seasons now, have yet to make it to MLB, but after testing them in triple-A ball this season, the heavily-skewed competition committee voted to install a pitch clock from next year. It can not be stressed enough that every player voted against this change.
One thing that makes it difficult to argue with the decision is how it has performed in the minor leagues. After using a pitch clock, the average minor league game time has dropped from 3:03 last season to 2:38 this year. That is a 25 minute drop on average.
While everyone who has ever played the game will agree that clocks in baseball are an abomination, their effectiveness is evident for all to see.
Earl Weaver explained perfectly the beauty of baseball, saying, “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and five the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”
Now that there is a clock in baseball, the game is somehow… less. The games will get faster, most certainly, but the essence of that beauty of a game with no time limits will have been lost forever.