The Pitch Clock is Going to Be Good for Baseball

(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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This weekend, I was able to catch my first look at the newly installed pitch clock during a Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training game against the Minnesota Twins.  Admittedly, it was only for an inning or so because spring training baseball can be a tough watch, especially this early into spring training.  

However, in that time, I was able to see the buzz around this change that has taken social media by storm since it was first implemented at the beginning of spring training.  I think it will take some getting used to, by both the players and fans, but overall, I think the pitch clock is going to be a step in the right direction for baseball gaining back some favor in the sporting world.

If you follow social media at all, it's pretty likely that you've seen some viral videos making the rounds regarding the pitch clock.  The majority of them show just how inefficient and time-consuming baseball was played in recent years.  Pitchers taking seemingly forever in between pitches has been the highlight of these videos.  Here is an example of one.
Now we can take that same video of pitcher Pedro Baez taking a lifetime between pitches and apply it to the new pitch clock era of baseball.

Your eyes are not deceiving you.  You just saw an entire half of an inning of Spring Training baseball played in the time it took Pedro Baez to throw a single pitch.  While both of these instances may very well be outliers on either ends of the spectrum, I think this is pretty telling of just how good the pitch clock can be for the game.

In recent years, Major League Baseball has made a conscientious effort to make baseball more appealing to the masses.  Unless you are a diehard fan, baseball can be very hard to consume at times and viewership looked to be waning from year to year.  Games were taking far too long to watch/attend for the casual fan and the MLB has rights over highlights of their on-field product so oftentimes, you can't easily see big plays from your favorite teams/players on social media.  While they still have work to do on the latter point, they've made changes to the game to encourage fans to come back to baseball.

The most notable of those changes so far has been the pitch clock.  Per the rule change, there is a 30 second timer in between pitches.  Once the pitcher receives the ball, he has 15 seconds to begin his motion if the bases are empty or 20 seconds if there are runners on.  There is also a responsibility of the batter to be in the batter's box once the clock hits eight seconds.  If either of them fail to abide, they are penalized - a strike for the batter if he fails to do so and a ball for the pitcher.  

While it may seem harsh, it's something that the game ultimately needed.  And once the players get more accustomed to it over the course of spring training, I'm sure we will see less penalizations than we've seen thus far through Spring Training.  The longer the players are exposed to this change, the smoother the product on the field will become.

What this has led to already is far shorter games.  The average game last season took over three hours long.  The average game so far this Spring Training is taking around two and a half hours to complete.  That's a pretty drastic difference.  As a big baseball fan myself, it's certainly encouraging.  In the middle of the season, it can be tough to watch an entire Pirates game when they're under .500 and playing three hour games against other struggling teams.  Now, it's a little easier to stomach.

All in all, I think this is going to be good for baseball in the long run.  The pitch clock, along with other rule changes, should make games more appealing for fans and not drag on, as they tended to do in the past.  I know there's been some backlash from purists of the game that this is ruining the true essence of baseball, but for the sport to gain popularity for new fans/the younger generations, these changes were necessary.  It's a game I fell in love with as a kid and if these new rules will help other kids do the same, them I'm all for it.