The pitch clock in baseball is something that’s been talked about for quite a few years now and baseball is about to implement it at the major league level. No doubt it will be an interesting change to the game and all those “timelessness of baseball” bromides will be put to rest (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
Trust me on this – it’s going to be fine.
Unless you miss guys stepping out of the batter’s box to adjust their batting gloves.
Unless you miss pitchers nervously moving dirt around on the mound or shaking off the catcher’s signs five or six times.
Unless you miss coaches needlessly flashing signs when nobody is on base and there are two strikes on the batter. (HIT IT!)
We are about to find out all the things you can and cannot do in 14 seconds (18 seconds with men on base).
There will be growing pains and there are loopholes – pitchers can re-set the clock by stepping off the mound — but I’ve seen a number of games at the minor league level and you only notice the clock if you are looking for it.
Everyone adjusts and does it pretty quickly.
In fact, when originally adopted in the minors, it was a 20-second clock, and they have just kept reducing it. Because it’s been done in the minors for almost 10 years, many major leaguers are already used to it.
The pitch clock is also used at the collegiate level and you only hear a rare instance of it coming into play.
You want to know where there needs to be a pitch clock most of all?
High school baseball.
Of course they won’t do it because of the cost involved (the same reason for no shot clock in high school basketball). And to be honest, there isn’t exactly a groundswell of support for it. But it’s becoming an issue. The 2 ½ hour high school game is a regular thing these days.
But it doesn’t have to be.
I ran the numbers after a game I recently attended and figured up about 10 seconds between pitches could be saved if the pitcher simply got the ball back from the catcher, looked in for a sign, and threw the next pitch.
Over the course of about 240 pitches thrown in a seven-inning game, that’s 40 minutes right there. Forty. Four-Zero.
What’s happening is that too many coaches are trying to justify their existence by calling the pitch AND the location. Watch how many times the players – not just the pitchers and catchers – check their wrist bands between seemingly every pitch. (It’s even worse when they don’t wear the wrist band and have to pull it out of their back pocket to check it.)
It may not matter to many, but high school baseball has lost all of its flow. Football has gotten faster and baseball has gotten slower.
I was taught many years ago never to criticize a problem without offering a solution, so here it is, even though it’s laughable to think it will ever be implemented:
No more signs from the dugout.*
Let them play. Let the catchers learn to call a game. Let the pitchers think their way through it and trust them to know what’s working and what’s not working instead of relying on a spray chart. Teach the game during practice, play the game when the lights come on.
Now, about that asterisk. I wouldn’t have a problem with having dugout signs in the seventh inning of a game or in any playoff game. But on a cold March night when you’ve been there two hours and it’s only the bottom of the fourth? No thanks.
There is the complaint about how the “baseball IQ” of the average player – not just in high school – has gone down. Well, when you don’t have to think on your own about what to do, that’s what happens.