Speeding Up Baseball

I wrote before about some suggested rule changes in MLB that are aiming to shorten the time games take.  It currently looks like there may not be any of those “poorer” options I talked about in that post getting adopted, but time will tell.  They’re going to try a few of them out in the minors at least.

Before I get to my own suggestions for how you could make baseball more accessible to new/younger fans and speed up the game, here’s a tour of some of the other suggestions that came across the interwebs lately:

  • Over at Bleed Cubbie Blue they’re asking for reader suggestions on potential rule changes.  Note that they quote an exec from the Tampa Bay Rays suggesting that eliminating the DH was a good idea.  I agree, of course, but that’s a topic for another post.  My favorite suggestion from the comments?  “No player conferences on the mound during an at-bat.”  I would probably moderate this a bit, forcing something akin to a football time out, but let’s make the pitcher figure out his own way when he and the catcher can’t communicate.  Another suggestion by the same commenter that has nothing to do with speeding up the game was to give away tickets to youth groups.
  • Also at BCB, writer argues that the problem isn’t length of games, but pace of action.  Al Yellon explains why changing the strike zone won’t fix that.  He encourages them to let umpires enforce the rules that already exist.
  • Al Yellon again at BCB, better ideas to fix baseball rules.  Includes limiting time that a manager has to challenge an umpire call for review.

Before I get to my suggested changes, I want to note that I’m not in love with any of them.  Any rule change will bring about some kind of “gaming” much like the marketplace equalizes eventually after every disruption.  I like the creative way managers like Joe Maddon approach the game and everything different that I see in a game is a new mental exercise for me as I try to figure out the “why” behind the decision.  The cat and mouse between a pitcher and the batter is a favorite thing for me to watch.  I understand that it gets old, though.  So here’s the ideas:

  • Limit pitching changes.  I remember when there were starters and relief pitchers and it was rare to have more than 2 pitchers per team in the game.  Idea of a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) never occurred to us back then.  Pitching changes can be limited in a number of ways that all speed up the game:
    • Limit the number, e.g. no more than 3 mid-inning pitching changes per game.  You can even put these at risk with failed challenges so that managers have incentive to be careful and speed up another area of the game.
    • No warm-up pitches.  Pitchers have to warm up in the bullpen and when they come in the game they face the batter.
    • Minimum number of batters faced:  you have to face 3 batters once you come in or the end of the inning, whichever is first.
    • (Obviously any of these have some possibility of needing injury exceptions, and there will need to be ways to manage to those)
  • Limit game stops somehow.  I’m talking reviews, catcher visits to the mound, etc.  Imagine how long an NBA game would take if there were no limits to time-outs.  We need something that limits baseball that way.
  • A pitch clock.  There’s already a rule about how long the pitcher has to deliver the ball, and if both the batter and the pitcher are “on the clock” I don’t think that will eliminate the cat and mouse between them, but it’ll certainly change it.
  • Not a time thing:  when you’re at the park there’s too much going on, and there’s less information given to you about players than you have watching on TV.  It’s a cool experience (and one I intend to take advantage of) but I miss some of the details about “last time this batter faced this pitcher, here’s what happened.”  This could draw some people into the game in ways that we’re not doing now.  I used to think baseball was too slow and boring, and then I learned to engage at a different level and now it’s my favorite sport to watch and follow.

What about you?  Any ideas for how we can improve the baseball experience?



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