George F. Will:
One of the six games of the 1948 Boston-Cleveland World Series was 1 hour and 31 minutes; the average, 2 hours. This year the average nine-inning game is 3 hours and 4 minutes, up 4 minutes from last year and 14 minutes from 2010. MLB’s worry, however, is less the length of games than that the length has increased as action — batters putting balls in play — has decreased.
Could you imagine if baseball games were routinely 90 minutes? I would definitely watch -- and go to -- a lot more of them. And most importantly for baseball, I would pay the same ticket price to go. Of course, shorter game times on television would undoubtedly mean fewer advertisements -- but if more people overall were watching as a result... Anyway, Will's point about fewer balls being put in play is an interesting one.
This year the average time between pitches has increased a full second, to 23.7. With about 300 pitches per game, this deadens things. Manfred says 67 percent of today’s major league pitchers worked under a pitch clock in the minor leagues. Soon, perhaps next year, a clock will require major league pitchers to deliver the ball within 20 seconds (15 would be better) after getting it back from the catcher. This will strengthen the rule requiring batters to stay in the batter’s box between pitches. (A whimsical proposal: Ban batting gloves. No one, from Ty Cobb through Ted Williams, used them, and now they occasion time-consuming fidgets.)
There should be limits on catchers’ traipsing to the mound. (In Game 2 of last year’s World Series, there were 13 hits and 14 mound visits.) Do warmed-up relief pitchers really need eight more warm-up pitches when they reach the mound? MLB packs too many commercials into breaks between half-innings — 2 minutes 5 seconds in the regular season, a minute more in the postseason. In a July 25 game, MLB will experiment with breaks of 1 minute 20 seconds.
The pitch clock basically has to happen at this point. There will be a fear of more injuries, of course, but many of the best pitchers in baseball are already the fastest to deliver. The trimming of commercials is decidedly more interesting to me. But I'm not holding my breath...
This season, more than 30 percent of at-bats are ending with walks or strikeouts.
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