MLB Rule Enforcement: Speeding up Games

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Updated: August 7, 2014
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We all love baseball, or well most of you reading this must like it in some shape or form. It can be an action-packed game full of diving catches, close plays at home, walk-off home runs, dramatic game-ending strikeouts and many more exciting things. Baseball can also be a long game; and after adding in instant replay and manager challenges has made it even longer. According to Baseball Prospectus, in 2014 the average nine-inning Major League Baseball game has lasted three hours and 14 minutes. At one point or another, games will get so long that people will stop watching and going to them live. It’s no secret that the MLB is trying to find a way to make the games shorter, but they don’t necessarily need a new rule to make games faster. They actually already have one, they just need to enforce it.

If Major League Baseball needs a way to speed up the game, there is a rule they could enforce, and that rule is Rule 8.04. This rule is an official rule for pitchers in Major League Baseball, the definition is from MLB.com and it says

“When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball. The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.”

Think about every time you have watched a baseball game and seen the pitcher standing on the mound rejecting every sign the catcher gave him multiple times, or walking around the mound, taking his hat off and just taking his time to make the next pitch. It happens often and enforcing this rule would stop that kind of stuff dead in its tracks. Now 12 seconds doesn’t sound long, but that’s enough time to make a decision on what pitch you want to make.

To some people it might seem like a harsh rule, but take a look at this stat that Ted Berg, writer for USA Today, pointed out in one of his articles. The average time between pitches by a pitcher in 2014 is 23 seconds. Not only that, but according to Fangraphs.com in 2013 the three slowest pitchers in the league were Erik Bedard with a 25.9 pace (seconds between pitches), David Price with a 25.8 pace and Jeremy Hellickson with a 25.6 pace; while the fastest pitchers last year were R.A. Dickey with a 17.9 pace, Mark Buehrle at 18.1 and A.J Griffin at 18.3. There were only 15 out of 145 starting pitchers in 2013 with a pace under 20 seconds. That shows that a lot of starters simply take too long to throw their pitches.

So imagine forcing all the pitchers to pitch faster. The league could save so much more time and this rule would only be a factor to pitchers when no one is on base. I do understand that if the league enforced it a lot of pitchers could have a problem adjusting to a 12 second rule at the beginning, so maybe making it 15 seconds would at least help the players ease into the rule. It may also help with the league-wide decline on offense, as pitchers and catchers would have less time to scheme about pitch sequencing, and making the pitcher work faster would in all likelihood make him tire more quickly.

Baseball is a beautiful game. But with game times rising, and instant replay only further delaying games, baseball needs to make an adjustment. In this fast-paced world, people don’t want to sit down for three consecutive hours; even if it is watching their favorite team. Making the pitchers pitch quicker would have positive effects on the length of baseball games and if Major League Baseball is serious about speeding up game play, this is a good place to start. They already have the rule, it’s not like MLB would have to put it to a vote. All they have to do is enforce it.

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