MLB’s pace-of-play rules demonstrate that less is indeed more, resulting in a pitch-perfect experience.

The implementation of pitch clocks in Major League Baseball (MLB) games was initially met with skepticism, with concerns of a forced and rushed atmosphere. However, the new rules have proven to be highly successful.

MLB’s efforts to accelerate game pace have yielded remarkable results. The average duration of games in the first two months of the season is now 2 hours and 40 minutes, a timeframe not seen since the early 1980s. This represents a significant reduction compared to the bloated averages of 3 hours and 6 minutes in 2022 and 3 hours and 11 minutes in 2021. Yet, the impact goes beyond statistics.

To establish a rhythm and eliminate unnecessary delays, two pitch clocks have been strategically placed behind home plate and two above the center field fence. These clocks effectively discourage hitters from stepping out of the batter’s box and pitchers from leisurely roaming the mound.

While some celebrated baseball as a “timeless game” without the need for clocks, the reality is that games have grown lengthier over time. Trimming the fat was necessary, especially as people’s attention spans have diminished. Following successful trials in the minor leagues, MLB introduced rule changes this year. Contrary to concerns, the pitch clocks seamlessly blend into the game.

Personally attending a Phillies vs. Diamondbacks game in Philadelphia, I witnessed the impact of the new rules firsthand. Although the game lasted 2 hours and 57 minutes, it would have extended an additional half-hour under the old rules. Fans hardly pay attention to the three-foot-high clocks with yellow numerals, as they are immediately switched off once the pitcher and batter engage.

The time limits imposed by the pitch clocks may seem tight, but there is still some flexibility. Pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch (20 seconds if a runner is on base), while batters need to be in the box with at least eight seconds remaining. Failure to adhere to these time limits results in additional balls or strikes being added to the count. Pitchers are allowed two “disengagements” per plate appearance, and each team receives five mound visits per game.

In the Diamondbacks’ 6-3 victory, eight of the 18 half-innings took five minutes or less. Only two innings lasted more than 10 minutes, namely the second inning with three runs and four hits by Arizona and the home seventh, which involved a mid-inning pitching change and ended with the bases loaded.

The game still delivered nine runs, consistent with the 2023 MLB average of 9.11 runs per game (slightly higher than 2022). Notably, the inclusion of slightly larger bases and limitations on infield shifting likely contributed to the 16 hits during the game.

Pitch-clock violations have decreased as players become more familiar with the rules, although there were 82 violations in the first 15 days of June compared to 146 in the opening 15 days of the season. A Twitter account called @MLBClockViolations, created by Luke DeWitt, a Canadian sports fan and web-services director, tracks these violations.

With pandemic restrictions lifted, the rule changes may have contributed to increased attendance, averaging 27,244 per game by mid-June compared to last year’s overall average of 26,566. The height of the baseball season, summer, is yet to come.

The Phillies’ average home attendance has surged, possibly due to their strong performance last season and their appearance in the World Series. Starting midweek night games earlier at 6:40 p.m. instead of 7:05 p.m. has likely benefited families with school-age children.

Attending a major league game is not inexpensive, with ticket prices, parking fees, and food costs adding up. However, the earlier start times have allowed fans to leave the stadium at a more reasonable hour while still enjoying a substantial portion of the game.

Pitch clocks, although initially perceived as potentially intrusive, have not affected the overall atmosphere of the ballpark. Kids in Little League shirts still roam the aisles, and fans efficiently make their way to concession stands for refreshments.

Interestingly, three teams extended the period for beer sales from seven to eight innings due to the shorter game times. After all, fans wouldn’t want to miss any action on the field while waiting in line for a cold one.

Although the Phillies lost the game I attended, I observed no complaints from anyone feeling short-changed. As the final out was recorded, fans left the park with a collective shrug, making their way to their cars or the subway. It is highly likely that most of them will return for future games.

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