By Jayson Stark, Patrick Mooney, Nick Groke, C. Trent Rosecrans and Andy McCullough
MLB’s 15 Opening Day games averaged 2 hours and 45 minutes on Thursday, 26 minutes shorter than last year’s average, signaling a successful start to the regular season for the pitch clock introduced to shorten games as part of the league’s new rule changes. Here’s what you need to know:
- Last year’s Opening Day, with seven games played, averaged 3 hours and 11 minutes.
- None of the first seven games completed on Thursday reached the average time of last year’s Opening Day games.
- Only two of the first seven games completed this year were longer than last year’s shortest Opening Day game. The shortest of last year’s Opening Day games was 2 hours and 49 minutes.
- Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman committed his first regular-season pitch-clock violation, while Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was the first hitter called for a pitch-clock violation on Thursday.
More striking numbers
On Thursday, one of the two games of the first seven that lasted 2:49 or longer was the Orioles’ 10-9 win over the Red Sox, which lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes.
The game of Reds vs. lasted 3 hours and 2 minutes. Pirates. The matchup featured 15 walks and 26 strikeouts and neither team’s starter lasted more than five innings.
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How does the pitch clock perform?
By the end of spring training, it seems everyone has not only gotten used to the pitch clock but also forgotten about it — except when celebrating a one-hour, 52-minute game like Reds starter Graham Ashcraft did last spring .
Thursday, however, both the Pirates and Reds starters had pitch clock violations and both plate appearances ended in home runs for the batter. is that related? Probably not, but there are more shaky signs in the regular season than in the spring where the results don’t matter.
In the end, however, even though the game felt like a slog, especially with 15 walks and 26 strikeouts, the announced game time was still 3:02, which a year ago would have been considered a fast game . — Rosecrans
Pitch-clock results in Reds, Pirates Opening Day matchup canceled
I’m here to report that the clock works on the West Coast as well. Take the game between the Padres and Rockies. San Diego starter Blake Snell ran at his usual inefficient clip. He needed 24 pitches to complete the first inning. He threw 70 pitches in three. The reliever behind him wasn’t much better, in a 7-2 loss at Colorado. The box score would suggest a contest that caught on at a torpid pace. And the game still ended in 2:56, 10 minutes shorter than the average game in 2022.
The other end games were just as breezy. The Mariners wrapped up a clean, 3-0 victory over the Guardians at 2:14. The Athletics beat the Angels, 2-1, in 2:30. The Dodgers crushed the Diamondbacks, 8-2, in just 2:35 — and that was a game that featured five different Arizona pitchers and multiple mid-inning pitching changes.
It’s hard to argue with the early results. Time will tell — pardon the phrase — on the long-term consequences of the clock. But you can’t question the reduction in dead air. — McCullough
What do Opening Day times tell us about the clock effect?
Spring training games have gone by at a pace we haven’t seen in more than 40 years. Games average two hours and 35 minutes in the spring — 26 minutes shorter than last spring and 31 minutes shorter than last year’s average regular season game.
No one in the sport thought the pace would hold up this year when the season started, for all sorts of logical reasons. But 2:40? Maybe 2:45? There is real optimism that an average somewhere in that range will do. And Thursday’s games seemed to prove it.
The first nine games of the day averaged exactly 2:45. Five is shorter than that. Only four are longer.
Even a 10-9 game in Boston — which featured 44 baserunners, 10 pitching changes, two pinch-hitters and two pinch-runners — it only took 3:10. A year ago on Opening Day, a 3-1 Astros-Angels game — featuring only 18 baserunners — dragged to 3:15. And not a single game all day ended at 2:45.
So what did Thursday’s game times tell us? Pitch clocks can bring their share of violations and unintended consequences. But do they work? Do they vacuum all the dead time in these games? Do they keep game times to a manageable length? That’s not even in doubt. — Stark
What they say
Stroman committed the offense in the third inning of Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Brewers with Christian Yelich at-bat and no outs. The violation was called after Stroman turned to look at Brice Turang leading to second base. He worked around a final walk to Yelich after the automatic ball made it a 2-2 count.
Stroman spent part of spring training pitching in a World Baseball Classic that didn’t feature a pitch clock and acknowledged there were times he felt “too rushed” on the mound.
“I don’t think people really realize that it just adds a whole nother layer of thinking,” Stroman said. “You have to be conscious of the clock. You try to worry about the pitch. You try to worry about the guys on base. You try to worry about your grip. There’s a lot going on right now.”
He gave up three walks and three hits while getting eight strikeouts. Stroman said he’s a pitcher “who can get off the mound and take a breather when I need to.”
“I don’t have a chance to do that anymore,” Stroman said. “Breathing is very important in aligning the body and putting yourself in the perfect position to deliver the ball to the plate. Like I said, I think it messes up a lot of guys’ pre-pitch routines, which can be ultimately affect how they pitch.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking on-air during Thursday’s Rangers TV broadcast, said the league will not “sweat our feet” about the pitch clock. Manfred said he hopes umpires decide late in games to allow for slower, tense moments. During spring training, managers and players around the league expressed concern that a game could end with a pitch clock violation or in the middle of a situation where a tight game becomes too much. rushed.
As Manfred spoke, the Texas game was stopped for several minutes after Jacob deGrom’s PitchCom device malfunctioned.
In the Red Sox’s game against the Orioles, Devers stepped out of the batter’s box in the eighth inning and was not grounded for eight seconds after striking out, resulting in his violation. He struck out after the infraction because he already had two strikes. Baltimore won 10-9.
Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson was asked about the rules before Wednesday’s workout.
“Oh, I have a lot of ideas,” Swanson said. “I just don’t need any of them to get me in trouble. I definitely think there are some adjustments that could be made. But as I said earlier, we have three options. One of them is to just complain about it all year, which doesn’t do anyone any good. The second is to simply embrace it and find ways to use it to our advantage. The third is that no one will play, and I don’t think that will happen either. So we’re left with one option, and that’s just to embrace it and use it to our advantage and do what we can to play this new brand of baseball.”
MLB introduced the pitch clock last spring, with the goal of streamlining entertainment for fans. Pitchers get 20 seconds to start their pitching motion with runners on base and 15 seconds to do so with the bases empty. Umpires assess the ball to pitchers who do not begin their motions before the clock expires and a strike to batters out of the box and “alert to the pitcher” for eight seconds.
The commissioner’s office said in September that implementing a pitch clock in the minor leagues last year reduced the average time of games by 25 minutes.
(Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)