Monday, January 19, 2015

Pitch Clock Coming to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park?

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Up amongst the big guys who watch major league baseball they keep kvetching about how baseball is a slow game, and getting even slower. Now, with laser-like attention to detail, major league baseball is taking a look at—wait for it—time between pitches. 

Are they going to look at, for example, replay? Or pitcher changes? Or batters spending a couple of hours re-Velcroing their batting gloves?

Nope. What they apparently plan to do is put pitch clocks in every AA and AAA stadium. Why in the minor leagues? Because they can. See, if they tried something like this in the major leagues they’d have to get the players union to agree. In the minors they don’t. Sort of like the batting helmets that minor leaguers have to wear. But there's a bit of skepticism out there.

This year’s Arizona Fall League ran clocks (and other time-saving rules) and we have the comments of one AAA manager regarding them. In this link we have a video of a clock in action, so looks like the software/hardware set up is doable. 

But will it speed up the game? Well, out in the Arizona Fall League when the clock was in use it saved a whopping 10 minutes(!) per game. That’s roughly the amount of time in my life I’ve spent watching Jonny Gomes twitch at the plate — and that’s just during a couple of games at the DBAP back in 2008 when he was here on a rehab assignment. Think about what it would mean for all of baseball if Gomes actually had to stay in the box these last few years? Think about it. Gomes has had 3747 major league plate appearances. Assume that he takes at least 30 seconds per plate appearance twitching around (low guess in my opinion), that's 31 hours — hours! — lost to baseball from just one player. 

Nevertheless, the clocks are coming to the DBAP. Inevitably we will get a ball four based on the clock count. That’ll be a day for puzzlement among the fans not listening to the radio. (Heads up Patrick Kinas! Gonna have some ‘splaining to do.)

I’ve annoyed more than a few folks seated near me by shouting “play ball” at pitchers and batters who waste time, but I honestly don’t remember but a couple of Bulls who were guilty of excessive twitchiness. The aforementioned Gomes, of course. And then Josh Lueke was something of a human rain delay. I don’t remember David Price being particularly slow to the plate, but apparently he leads the majors in time-between-pitches for starters nowadays. And I seem to remember Chris Archer having outings when he’d spend a good bit of time between pitches. However, pitching coach Neil Allen was apparently of the belief that pitchers should set a quick pace and, while here, that’s seems to be what most Durham pitchers have done. Of course, I wouldn't be yelling about Durham players anyhow. 

Another rule that may be implemented is that a batter will have to keep one foot inside the batter’s box. Now, how in the world is that going to be enforced? Seems to me that the first round of hitters do everything to obscure/erase the batters box lines, so that by the 2nd inning or so it’s pretty hard to tell where the box is.

Want to speed up the game? Here’s a new rule. Only 3 pitchers per game. Now that would speed up the game. Of course, advertisers would go nuts. They love pitching changes.


  1. I think I might be the only person in favor of these clocks. The game is running too long. Umpires have shown that they are not willing to use their discretion to move things along, so something had to be done. I think 20 seconds is a little short, but I'm in favor of the overall concept.

  2. I have something of a wait and see attitude. It might help, and it would certainly help young pitchers from developing bad habits. The comments by New Orleans manager indicates a learning curve. I just think that time between pitches is not as annoying as some other aspects (especially replay, but we don't have to worry about that). We'll see. Will give us regulars something to talk about.

  3. I was very excited to see this news.

    Desperate for baseball, I spent an evening this past fall watching a few innings of an Arizona fall league followed by the MLB tour of Japan. The AFL game featured the pitch o'clock and other pace saving measures. They really made a huge difference in moving the game along, particularly the rules that required hitters to keep 1 foot in the box and limited the amount of time between pitching changes.

    I then tuned in the MLB tour of Japan and was shocked at the difference. After watching the AFL game move along at a crisp pace, I was treated to MLB hitters walking out of the box and staring into nothingness for no apparent reason between every single pitch.

    Give it a try, I think we (and MLB - perhaps players as well) will like it. Besides, there's nothing wrong with watching a really good game and leaving the park at 9:30.

    - Tom F

  4. That's not fair, Tom. We usually don't let reality intrude upon our thought processes in the off season. ;) Thanks for the info. I've not seen it at work and I'm guessing that the DBAP folks have the technical expertise. And leaving at 9:30 would be a nice change.