Apr 20, 2022 - Sports

MLB pitch clocks could come next season

Data: Baseball Reference; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Baseball Reference; Chart: Axios Visuals

A pitch clock has shortened Minor League Baseball games by 20 minutes, per ESPN, setting the stage for MLB to implement a clock next season.

State of play: Entering Tuesday, MLB games were lasting an average of 3 hours, 10 minutes. The good news? That's one minute shorter than last season. The bad news? That's over one hour longer than a century ago — and 20 minutes longer than the average game as recently as 2005.

By the numbers: Over the first 132 minor league games that included the pitch clock, the average game time was 2 hours, 39 minutes. In a control set of 335 games without the clock, games lasted 2 hours, 59 minutes.

  • Scoring was nearly identical: 5.11 runs and 15.9 hits in the pitch clock games vs. 5.13 runs and 16.1 hits per game in the non-clock games.
  • How it works: 14-second clock with the bases empty, 18-second clock with runners on base. Automatic ball if the pitcher isn't ready in time, automatic strike if the batter isn't ready. Pitchers are also limited to two step-offs or pickoff attempts.

Context: The California League saw similar results when it implemented a 15-second pitch clock last summer. Game times decreased by 21 minutes, and runs and homers were up, while walks and strikeouts were down.

What they're saying: "It seemed like it accomplished exactly what MLB wants," Henry Davis, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick and catcher in the Pirates farm system, told ESPN. "[Outside of] playing in the College World Series or unique games, it has been the most fun I've ever had playing."

What to watch: The new CBA gives MLB the ability to unilaterally implement new rules with a 45-day advance notice, so a pitch clock by 2023 seems plausible, assuming MLB continues to see what it has called "encouraging results."

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