Major League Baseball is constantly trying new things to make their product more appealing as the NFL has long been the nation’s most popular sport and the NBA is growing globally.
A lot of the changes that are being made are to speed up the pace of play.
According to Baseball Reference, a stat keeping website, the average MLB game lasted three hours, four minutes.
The website says baseball games have lasted more than three hours since 2012.
Prior to that, the league hadn’t averaged a baseball game more than three hours since 2000, which had an average of three hours, one minute.
That was the first time the league averaged games longer than three hours.
It may take a while to get back to the glory days of MLB games averaging times of nearly two and a half hours in the 1970s, but the league is trying to shorten the game.
The league has experimented with a pitch clock to limit the time between pitches and has deployed it in the minor leagues.
It has also limited mound visits between the pitcher on the mound and the catcher behind the plate to five last season.
It will also limit breaks between innings to two minutes.
Next season, the league is implementing a new rule, which requires pitchers to pitch to three batters minimum.
Previously, pitchers had to face at least one batter, which allowed for managers to match between batters.
If a right-handed batter doesn’t hit right-handed pitchers well, you’d likely see a righty/righty matchup.
Same for left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers.
Some pitchers have become specialists and given their own nicknames.
In left-handed specialists, they have been nicknamed “left-handed one out guy” or better known as “LOOGYs.”
Some pitchers or batters have reverse splits, which means a left-handed pitchers are more effective against right-handed hitters, which is unusual because opposite handed hitters usually see pitches better out of opposite handed pitchers.
Because teams play matchups to get an advantage over other teams, managers will often take out pitchers after one batter to get a better matchup in the next at bat.
That requires managers to walk to the mound, sometimes talk with the pitchers, take the ball, wait for the reliever to come in and for that pitcher to warm up.
It indeed takes a while to go through that process, and to limit those opportunities, the MLB has cut those back to three batters minimum.
While I tend to agree with some of the proposed rule changes, including adding the designated hitter to the National League — which that column could come later — I don’t care for the three batter minimum.
I don’t like it because pitchers who may not have their best stuff on the day can possibly get away with facing one batter, or their control is way off, they walk a guy and the manager can come get him in hopes the next reliever is more effective.
With this new rule change, if a guy doesn’t have his stuff or his control is way off, he’ll now have to face three batters and hope to find his control.
This could cause tremendous problems, especially late in the game where it could be a one-run ball game with no outs in the top of the ninth.
A new relief pitcher enters the game and he walks three straight batters.
A new pitcher will have to come in and half to work out of the jam to try to get the win.
The hope is at most, you surrender one run.
But, what if that guy doesn’t have it? He could walk in three straight runs and now, the momentum has completely changed.
Now, that is baseball and the risk that teams take often, but it’s put a team in a rough spot and takes some strategy out of the game.
Instead of being able to match up against guys who have better numbers, pitchers will have to hope they have their stuff that day.
And, it could ultimately take those specialists out of baseball.
The argument there might be that because they are at the major league level, those guys should be able to get anyone out.
To that argument, the NFL has specialists like kickers or punters. Not every player can kick field goals or punt the ball to the 1-yard line.
Likewise, you don’t want those kickers or punters forced to lead a two-minute drill at the end of football games.
Why would you want pitchers that don’t have their control having to pitch to guys they can’t get out at the time.
To put it simply, different guys are better at different things.
To play devil’s advocate against my own argument, this may bring the importance of longer relievers who can get anyone out.
Managers will have to strategize matchups with who are the next three batters in the order. And, the three batter minimum rule doesn’t apply in all situations.
But, to wrap up, most rule changes are needed and are good, but I don’t agree with all of them.
A lot of baseball is perfectly fine how it is and I do think that some changes are reactionary because the views may not be as high as league officials would like.
But, pace of play shouldn’t be that big of a problem.
People often argue that baseball is slow, but I often retort that football is also a slow sport.
Prior to writing this article, I visited several websites that said football games last longer than three hours, but there are about 11 minutes of actual game time.
Pace of play may not be the problem, but it may be that the league has trouble marketing their players like other leagues do.
Several NBA players have shoe deals, which allows the public to buy player-branded shoes.
I have a pair of Kyrie Irving-branded basketball shoes.
Maybe we need Mike Trout-branded shoes or whatever.
Baseball is a great sport, but I don’t believe pace of play is the issue.