Sep 19, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcherMark Buehrle
(56) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Major League Baseball has announced that it will institute pitching clocks in the minor leagues. This coming season will feature a 20 second clock for pitchers in AA and AAA. This is part of the MLB’s pace of play initiative which was a major feature of the winter leagues. The winter leagues saw the pitch clock, rules about batters leaving the batter’s box and other innovative ways to speed up the game.
Let’s leave aside the obvious questions about whether baseball actually needs to improve its pace of play. Baseball will improve its pace of play at the major league level simply by instituting pace of play rules at the upper levels of the minor leagues. Over time, things like the pitch clock in AA and AAA will actually affect the majors.
Baseball players are renowned for their development of routines. If players are forced to adjust their routines to increase the pace of play at the higher levels of the minor leagues, they will invariably bring those routines with them to the major leagues. This means over time players will naturally have shorter routines once they reach the majors. Thus, without actually changing anything about the rules at the major league level we could see significant changes in pace of play. This would mean the MLB could improve pace of play and avoid upsetting fans with sweeping rule changes.
Of course, implementing rules in the minors and hoping the effects translate to the majors is guaranteed to be less effective than actually
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
enforcing pitch clocks in the majors. The best case scenario is for the pace of play rules in the minors to translate to a large portion of the potential change of implementing the rules in the majors. For example, if actually implementing the pace of play rules could represent a ten minute decrease in the time of game on average in the majors then only implementing the rules in the minors and hoping the players’ altered routines translate to a faster game in the majors could at most cut ten minutes. Realistically, only implementing pace of play rules in the minors would have less effect at the major league level than implementing the pace of play rules in majors. Some players will not maintain their quicker routines once they reach the major leagues but some will.
With this in mind, the MLB should implement other pace of play rules such as forcing batters to stay in the box between pitches. By having very strict pace of play rules in the minor leagues, the major leagues will see the greatest effect without having to make actual changes to rules in the majors.