One week into the MLB season, the rule change is a huge success overall. It looks like fans and players alike love the changes.
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Even pitchers, who tend to be crybabies and sticklers for routine, are seeing the change as an opportunity. Max Scherzer spent spring training using the pitch clock to his advantage, both keeping the ball in designated position as long as he could and pitching quick.
Although most are on board, there are some extreme baseball traditionalists who still aren’t fans. And I’m not just talking about Manny Machado taking up a sword to go on a children’s crusade against the pitch clock.
For example, here’s an excerpt from Battery Power of SB Nation: “I won’t brag and rave too much here, but the combination of the expanded playoffs and these changes is a very clear signal to me from MLB: ‘Stop watching. Do.’ Am I going to listen? Who knows.”
There is a small but vocal contingent of fans who think of the new rules as if every change made to the game has ruined it. If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, you’ve probably talked to him or at least heard him.
I was at an MLB game last season when a foul ball hit the net well down the first base side when the guy sitting in front of me said uncontrollably, “The nets ruined baseball.” Net? then what are you doing here? If the game is ruined then go home. If a person is athletic enough to catch a ball hit at 110 mph with their bare hands while seated, they’d rather be at the game than pay to watch it.
but I digress. The point is that for some baseball traditionalists, rule changes like pitch clock are changing a game that has remained basically the same for more than 100 years. The thing is, the “Back in My Day” crowd should love the changes because it’s really making the game more similar to the one they grew up with.
short games for short attention span
The average length of a game this season is two hours and 38 minutes. The last time it was that short was 1981. At the time of writing, teams are stealing 0.64 bases per game, up from last season’s 0.51, and reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s.
The new rule changes are not changing baseball. Baseball itself was changing, and these rules are correcting that.
If you heard someone say during spring training that these rules would ruin the game and they weren’t going to see them, know that they were lying. No one really watches because they prefer to watch pitchers throw four pickoffs in a row or batters readjust their batting gloves after a called strike. That SB nation writer? He is also watching, no matter what kind of threat he poses.
If MLB had announced the pitch watch in a top-secret league-wide memo that made everyone sign an NDA, and never told the watcher publicly, no one would have noticed until the pitch was over. The reason may not be strike or ball. Clock violation. No one would object to the players having a sense of urgency.
We know this because they have had these rules in the minor leagues for two seasons and no one else did. The fans complaining about the new rule have probably been to a minor league game on grounds that are clearly larger than the stands and didn’t notice.
Also, 15 seconds is not a short amount of time to throw a pitch. do not believe me? Sit there and do nothing for 15 seconds. Can you remember a time when you were more bored?
Besides the pitch clock the other major change was limiting the shift. I was against the ban on shift for a long time. I didn’t like the idea of punishing the defense because the batters refused to try and hit it the other way. My stance on that has softened somewhat as more base hits are actually more fun to watch.
Like other rule changes, limiting innings brought baseball much more than it had been at the peak of its popularity. Frequent infield shifting is a recent development, with saves hitting 10 percent of plate appearances in 2015, rising to 34 percent in 2022.
In short, I think the people complaining about the rule change were just looking for something to complain about. The on-field product was made much better practically overnight, and dare I say, that’s a good thing.