Time for everyone’s favorite subject in sports (insert drumroll)....pace of play in baseball! That’s right folks, time to dig back into the old “baseball stinks now” bag and whine in pure misery about the current state of America’s Pastime.
Yes, it’s still the National Pastime for as long as I am alive, consider this beginning of my kermudgety old man attitude.
Now, will this blog contain shots at current commissioner and full-time stooge, Rob Manfred? Absolutely. Let’s just jump right into things.
Since 2015, Major League Baseball has attempted to implement rule changes to cut down on the time of a contest. For example, in 2019, the MLB reduced the time between innings for regional and national broadcasts to an even two minutes.
Before the rule change? Two minutes and five seconds for regional broadcasts and two minutes and 25 seconds for national broadcasts.
Nice job, Manfred. (insert slow clap GIF) Really addressing the problem there.
Furthermore, mound visits were limited to five per team and only endured for 30 seconds before the umpire would break them up. The result?
These games are getting LONGER.
According to Baseball Reference.com, an average game per nine innings has seen an increase in time since 2015 (the year they started putting these measures in!!).
A typical nine-inning game in 2015 would take about two hours and 55 minutes, but through 88 games in 2021, the average time of a game is three hours and 16 minutes. That’s a 20-minute jump for a sport that, when compared to basketball or football, is about as stagnant as watching paint dry, which is another contributing factor.
Just a few weeks ago, the great Tom Verducci wrote a Sports Illustrated column that detailed the home-run-or-bust-hitting approach taking the league by storm and the lack of action in games.
Verducci’s first example is Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, when the Dodgers clinched their first championship since 1988.
Over the last 26 minutes of the game, guess how many balls were put into play.
Two. How in the bloody world is baseball supposed to grow when I have to watch TWO balls be put in play over HALF A FREAKING HOUR?!
There were more pitchers (12) than hits (10)!
Verducci also notes that since 2011, pitches take 2.6 seconds longer, which adds about 14 minutes more to a game of just waiting. I know what you’re thinking, But Matt, home runs are getting smashed out the park more than ever.
To which I respond, who cares?
Later in the column, Verducci estimates that contact has decreased from 18.3% in 2010 to just 15.9% today. Pitchers are now utilizing off-speed pitches to avoid contact which is adding more pitches and even MORE dead time.
The simple fact of the matter is that baseball needs to go BACKWARDS in order to move forwards. What does that mean? More small-ball, poking hits through the holes in shifts rather than just trying to hit it over everyone’s head.
Unless you are fully invested in baseball and love the game to a certain degree, baseball has become more boring than golf and if Manfred wants to save The National Pastime turning into The National Bedtime, pace of play will be the biggest issue he will have to tackle moving forward.
Right now, the road ahead looks more gloomy before it turns bright.