"First came a limit on mound visits. Then, shortened breaks between innings. Next year, pitchers will be forced to face at least three batters [to] reduce pitching changes, and some day, Major League Baseball may yet foist a pitch clock on its timeless game."
Driving the news: As the regular season nears its conclusion, MLB's pace of play initiatives — designed to speed up a sport that won't stop slowing down — "look more and more like acts of futility," writes USA Today's Gabe Lacques.
By the numbers: The average time of a 9-inning game is back up to 3 hours and 5 minutes, equaling the record-high from 2017.
- It dropped to 3 hours flat last year after MLB limited teams to 6 mound visits per game, but this season's spike in home runs — which are time-consuming — has moved the needle back in the opposite direction.
More importantly, MLB hitters are seeing an average of 3.92 pitches per plate appearance this year, the highest mark in the 21 seasons the stat has been tracked.
- "[F]ive years ago, pitching staffs had contact guys, sinker-slider guys. They wanted the ball put into play. Now ... it's pitch to the top of the zone with fastballs, with as much velocity as you hope a guy has, and put you away with breaking balls," Marlins IF Neil Walker told USA Today.
- "You see a lot more at-bats deeper into counts, a lot more at-bats that end with strikeouts or walks, a lot more foul balls. That goes hand-in-hand with what we're seeing in regard to time and pace of play."
The bottom line: In 1950, your average baseball game took 2 hours and 19 minutes. In 2019, it takes that same amount of time ... plus last night's episode of "Hard Knocks."
- That's less than ideal, especially when it comes to attracting a younger audience. And the scariest part for MLB is that there's no obvious solution to the problem.