Last week, it was leaked to the media that Major League Baseball is planning to implement the pitch clock in MLB games starting in 2023. This is probably not a huge surprise as the clock has been used experimentally in Minor League Baseball since 2017, and was rolled out more broadly this season.

The rules are pretty simple – with the bases empty, pitchers have 14 seconds to begin their motion toward home plate. With a runner on, they have 18 seconds (in Double-A or below) or 19 seconds (in Triple-A). Beginning the motion is considered first movement in the pitcher’s motion. Out of the windup, that means on the step back. From the stretch, it is the lift of the leg. When it is run properly, you don’t even notice it is there.

There are other nuances to the rule such as what to do on a foul ball or in between batters, when the clock starts/stops, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on these two. MLB is looking at the Triple-A 14/19 model to bring to the majors this year.

The question of why MLB would want to do this is simple. Baseball games are taking an increasingly long time with longer and longer periods between the action. As people’s attention spans continue to grow shorter, that is a horrible combination for the long-term growth of the game.

The new structure of the pitch clock in 2022 has proven to effective in speeding up games. No full-season minor league has an average game time this year longer that 2:48 (Pacific Coast League). There are eight leagues averaging less than 2:40 to play their games, led by the Northwest League, where the average nine-inning game has taken 2:29. In 2021, only one league had an average game time shorter than 2:50.

Shaving that extra 20 to 30 minutes off a game has a humongous impact – you’re talking about the same amount of action crammed into a 15% shorter time frame. That alone makes things feel like they are going so much faster in the game this year.

Also, an added benefit is casual fans – especially those with kids – are more likely to stay through the end of the game if the game is shorter. In the past people may have left in the seventh inning because the games are moving faster. That is a huge positive for the game’s long-term growth, as often the most exciting parts of the game are the parts that people are leaving the ballpark for.

But is the 14/19 model just too fast?

Using Baseball Savant’s new pitch tempo tool, we can see that there are only 11 pitchers (out of 559) in MLB who have thrown at least 50 pitches with the bases empty with an average tempo of less than 14 seconds. There are only nine pitchers who come in under 19 seconds with runners on base.

The only pitchers who do both: Wade Miley, Kirk McCarty, Zac Lowther, and Brent Suter. Only four pitchers in all of MLB work at a pace that is complaint with the rules that are in the works for 2023. The game is going to look very different with the 14/19 model.

Some minor league coaches and instructors have suggested maybe adding two or three seconds to the clock – a 16/21 or 17/22 model, both of which would still be faster than MLB average, but not be as radical of a change. They come from a place of being concerned of increased injury risk with less recovery time between pitches with pitchers throwing max effort. The reaction to this will be more judiciously managing pitch counts and ultimately shorter outings for starters and relievers.

So how might this impact the Mets? Well, every single pitcher on the staff is going to have to work quicker than they currently do.

The fastest worker on the staff this year (min. 50 pitches) has been Colin Holderman, with an average tempo of 14.4 with the bases empty and 19.6 with runners on. Then it is David Peterson (14.4/20.8), Taijuan Walker (15.1/22.3), Adonis Medina (15.4/22.2) and Max Scherzer (16.8/24.0).

The slowest worker on the staff is Tylor Megill, at 21.5 with the bases empty and 25.7 with runners on. This is a surprise considering that Megill has been in the minors with the pitch clock rules in effect recently, and seems to indicate that at least for him, they didn’t speed up his pace naturally.

For fun, going back to the beginning of the Statcast era in 2015, the fastest-worker the Mets have had was Steven Matz (13.9/20.1), while Alex Torres was the slowest (22.5/29.1). The Mets have not had a pitcher that has worked at a pace that would be compliant with the pitch clock rules in this time.

The clock is generally a good thing and a welcome change that could be good for the game. However, making this radical of a change could come with huge consequences. MLB needs to make the decision if those consequences are worth the tradeoff.

4 comments on “The pitch clock and the Mets

  • BrianJ

    My view is that the great majority of things that MLB is experimenting with would be bad for the game. The pitch clock is not one of those – I can’t wait for its implementation.

    To me this is the perfect example of the type of rule change that MLB should propose. There’s no way for the game to find its own equilibrium on this. It’s the complete opposite of the shift. As Mets fans, we’ve seen first hand multiple players on the team who bunt or hit the other way to beat the shift. It’s totally within the control of the players to stop teams from shifting – for the most part, players simply choose not to do so. That’s on them.

    But a batter can’t make a pitcher throw the ball and a pitcher can’t keep the batter from stepping out of the box after every pitch to loosen and re-tighten their batting gloves and adjust their cup. The pitch clock absolutely should be at a number that forces the overwhelming majority of pitchers to work faster.

    It would be great if they could combine this with a better pitch com device.

  • JamesTOB

    I would have appreciated including some stats on the length of MLB games this year.

    *P.S. “complaint” should have been “compliant” Blame it on spellcheck.

  • MikeW

    It would be better for faster games. A lot of times I look at the clock and it is pushing 10 pm and the game is still in progress.

    After 50 years I have changed my mind about the DH in the NL. I like it. The shift, I hate it.

    I love the art of the game. The science can be boring.

  • Metsense

    The game is too slow and it takes too long to complete it. The pitch clock would shorten that time of the game without without altering the basic rules of the game, except the rule of the pick-offs. Pick offs would be restricted 2 to pick offs / batter. The third pick off attempt would be a balk or a successful pickoff out.
    The 14/19 pitch clock is successful in the minors. It is a drastic change for the majors. Most Major Leaguers have not experienced a pitch clock. Maybe in the major leagues they could ease it in for three years, starting with a 17/22 with the goal being a 14/19 pitch clock in the fourth year.

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