No matter how much Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants it to change, the pace of play won’t speed up.
Why Baseball’s Pace of Play Won’t Change
We’ve seen incremental pace of play increases over the years, but games won’t ever be as short as they used to be. Baseball season is a long grind. It’s the longest season of all the sports.
Manfred wants to keep fans in the seats and watching on television. According to USA Today’s
“After another slate of nine-inning odysseys on Monday, the average time of game has hit 3 hours, 5 minutes, which would be an all-time high by three minutes for a full season, and a 3% increase from 2016’s average nine-inning game – an even 3 hours.”
What’s the main culprit in the games being so long? It’s not the batter fidgeting with themselves too much, nor is it the pitchers taking too long between pitches. It’s strategy.
Based on information gathered by FiveThirtyEight, bullpens are being used much frequently. Additionally, more and more power arms are coming out of the pen.
“…nearly twice as many innings thrown by relievers who average 95 mph or higher on their fastballs than we did just 12 years ago.”
Both relief innings and number of relief pitchers used has gone up significantly over the years. So, now you have to deal with pitching changes more frequently, and those pitchers need to warm up.
Adding relievers to the end of the game gives us the drama we want in sports, but it also doesn’t produce action most of the time. Baseball fans want runs. The problem is, with specialization and fresh arms, it’s tougher to score runs.
Let’s say a baseball game is tied 2-2. If the game’s starting pitcher is still in the game, he may be equally as tired as, or more tired than, the hitter. If you bring in a fresh arm, that swings the advantage to the pitcher.
Even Manfred has noticed the relief pitcher problem. He told Mike & Mike this:
“You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game. So relief pitchers is a topic that is under active consideration. We’re talking about that a lot internally.”
We live in a fast-paced world, and maybe the slow pace of play in baseball is a good thing. It may not seem attractive to us as young viewers, but the break from the go-go-go mentality might be good for us. In the long-run, you don’t want to change the game too much and make the game not what it is.