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Pace of Game

 
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dodgerblue6



Joined: 10 Aug 2005
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Location: San Diego CA - deep in the heart of SoCal

PostPosted: Mon 5/19/14 8:45 pm    Post subject: Pace of Game Reply with quote

A friend (casual fan) shared this article with me, from the Wall Street Journal, no less. Not exactly the place for the biggest baseball enthusiasts to seek out commentary, but still...


"Does Baseball Have to Be So Slow?"

MLB Games Are Becoming Even Longer and More Deliberate; The Red Sox Study Why

By BRIAN COSTA
May 1, 2014 11:35 a.m. ET

Yankees-Red Sox games have become notorious for how long they take.

The Boston Red Sox spent last winter basking in the afterglow of their World Series victory. They also spent some of it pondering a couple of questions: Why do their games take so long? And what should Major League Baseball do about it?

At the request of Commissioner Bud Selig, the perennially slow-paced Red Sox formed a committee of seven team executives to study the issue and recommend changes for the league as a whole. A volunteer corps of 30 front-office staffers spent over 350 hours combing through video of Boston's 2013 regular-season games, charting every little drag on the pace of play.

The Red Sox, whose games averaged an MLB-high 3 hours 15 minutes in 2013, are only about halfway done with the project. But the fact that such a committee even exists shows how little progress MLB has made in its attempts to speed up the game.

"This is one of the most critical issues facing baseball as we move forward into the next three, five, seven years," Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy said.

Selig has expressed concern about the pace of play for years. It has become almost clich for fans to grumble about hitters stepping out of the batter's box, pitchers pacing around the mound andno, not another pitching change! But for all of the attention the issue has received, the speed of the game continues to reach new lows.

Entering Thursday, the average game time this season was 3:08, according to Stats LLC. Never mind comparisons to the days of flannel jerseys and black-and-white telecasts: That is 13 minutes longer than the average time in 2010.

But length isn't so much of an issue as pace. In 2004, when home runs were abundant and baseball's pace was hardly considered blistering, fans saw a pitch thrown once every 35 seconds. In 2014, it is one pitch every 38 seconds. If that sounds like a small difference, multiply three seconds by the more than 700,000 pitches thrown in a typical season.

The rise in strikeouts, which have reached record highs every year since 2008 and are on pace to do so again this season, has only exacerbated the issue. That is because strikeouts guarantee two things: at-bats that last at least three and usually four or more pitches, and a whole lot of standing around in the field.

There is no more compelling form of action in a baseball game than the sight of a ball being put into play, regardless of whether it results in a hit. And batters have never had this much difficulty simply putting the ball in play. The result: If you're watching a baseball game, you're waiting longer to see less action.

Fans attending games on Opening Day in 1964a time when many of today's baseball fans were forming a lifelong connection to the sportsaw, on average, one ball put in play every 2 minutes 29 seconds. Fans this season have seen a ball put in play just once every 3:30.

Though the Red Sox are trying to quantify them in extensive detail, the causes of slow play are no mystery. Whether it is batters pausing to fuss with their gloves, pitchers stepping off the rubber or coaches ambling out to the mound for a chat, the prevailing baseball culture is like the elderly driving culture: No one is in any hurry.

Add in a variety of smaller factors, including MLB's new instant-replay system, and it all adds up to a game that requires more patience from a society that has less of it.

The only real question is whether anyone in baseball is willing press for the kinds of dramatic changes in rules and enforcement that will make the game move faster than this generation of players is comfortable with.

Currently, MLB sends warning letters to dawdling players and occasionally fines the most egregious ones a small amount. But the most aggressive, innovative attempt to speed up play came last year from the independent Atlantic League.

The league started enforcing several existing time-of-game procedures that are rarely invoked in the majors. Batters were no longer allowed to step out of the box after every pitch. Pitchers were required to limit their between-inning warm-ups to one minute and, if the bases were empty, deliver the next pitch within 12 seconds. Managers were asked (though not required) to limit mound visits and make pitching changes between innings only.

For a while, the measures shaved about 15 minutes off games, according to Peter Kirk, who served as league president last year. But as the season went on, old habits resulted in longer games.

"These guys in the Atlantic League, and definitely at the major-league level, they've had a career's worth of doing things a certain way," he said. "And it's awfully hard to turn that switch."

Spurred by fans' complaints about the pace of play, the Atlantic League is now pondering more drastic measures, such as calling a hitter out after a certain number of two-strike foul balls. But it is difficult for MLB to act with such urgency after a year that saw its revenues surpass $8 billion.

Meanwhile, baseball's fan base continues to skew older, and the decline in the number of young playersMLB's best source of future customersis only growing steeper. From 2000 to 2009, the number of children between the ages of 7 and 17 playing baseball in the U.S. fell by 24%, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. Between 2009 and 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, the number fell an additional 18%, to just under 5.5 million.

"When I talk to my kids, they love going to the ballpark for a few innings," Kirk said. "And then they get bored."

Write to Brian Costa at brian.costa@wsj.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Comments: I think it's safe to say that the decline in kids playing baseball is not noticeable here!

But as for the pace of game, really, what did they think when they added all these ways of slowing it down, anyway? A designated hitter (meaning nine "true" hitters in the lineup), now the instant replay reviews, etc. If fans were complaining about the pace of play, why would MLB make changes that definitely add time to the game?

Yeah, I guess it's what we like about the game...the lazy pace, the lack of a clock, etc. Sometimes there seem to be unnecessary delays.

I know the "younger generation" tends to suffer from ADD, which is one reason baseball has always been concerned with its appeal to millennials.

For me, though, it's still baseball. I'm not complaining.
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forloveofthegame



Joined: 23 Oct 2009
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PostPosted: Tue 5/20/14 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

American League games have usually tended to run longer as you note here. I have noted a lot of games go longer than they used to. I still remember when Randy Jones had us in and out by 8:30 at the old San Diego Stadium! I am sure we talked about it before here, but he pitched a complete game in 90 minutes back in 1977! I do not mind the stepping out of the box, etc. It is the rule changes, and the reviews, etc. that make for the longer games. Also the pitching changes that were not so routine like they are now, back in the day. It is one thing to make a pitching change because your starter is running out of gas or because you have a situational match up. Or, Linda, in the case of your Dodgers and their bullpen - seems you are changing pitchers a few times an inning. Surprised (I am going to hide from you now! Lol)
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Thu 5/22/14 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny what just happened...I'll post about it later.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Tue 8/19/14 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Someone on another forum posted this article which suggests baseball should embrace its pace and appeal to younger fans in different ways...I'm glad he's not suggesting more gimmickry! Fan involvement in strategy? Great idea--unless you're in an AL ballpark. Surprised
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Wed 10/1/14 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So last week, Commissioner Selig announced the formation of a new committee to study pace of game issues.

All this after so many extra hours spent on reviews this season.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Sat 2/21/15 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the new initiatives have been announced.

From MLB.com:

Quote:
The bullet points:

Umpires will enforce Rule 6.02(d), which requires hitters to keep one foot in the box during an at-bat, subject to certain exceptions.
Timers will be used to ensure that the game resumes promptly at the end of inning breaks.
Managers will no longer come out of the dugout to initiate a replay challenge. A manager will also keep his challenge after each call that is overturned. Last year, a challenge was retained only after the first overturned call.


A similar article with more information is linked here.
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Mon 2/23/15 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not really sure I like taking the psychological advantage away from the hitter, stepping out of the box. I know it will speed up games, I guess I am just one of those fans who likes the little things that let a player try to mess with the rhythm of the pitcher and vice versa.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Wed 3/4/15 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got to post an update on this a little bit later.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Thu 2/16/17 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pace of game discussions just will not go away. Sad
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Mon 2/27/17 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, it's been confirmed that there will be only "automatic" IBBs. Seriously, this is supposed to be a remedy to speed up the game? Sheesh.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Fri 2/16/18 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One year later, let's revisit pace of play issues. Commissioner Rob Manfred says there are more changes coming!
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Mon 2/19/18 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And here they are, as announced today.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Wed 10/31/18 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting commentary in the L.A. Times:

"There's Too Much Talk About Baseball Games Being Too Long"
by Bill Shaikin

OCT 30, 2018 | 5:05 PM


The games take too long. How can the sport grow its fan base when the games take so darn long?

Three hours for a regular-season game, longer in the playoffs, almost four hours in the game that crowns the season champion.

Rob Manfred had better do something.

The first thing the commissioner ought to do is to tell the conventional wisdom to take a timeout. Those are the average game times for the NFL.

“The Super Bowl,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said, “is four and a half hours.”

Jansen is embellishing, but not by much, and he is doing so in the service of the story line that Major League Baseball ought to embrace. Talk up the sport, talk up the players, and stop talking about how long it takes to play a game.

On the day before this year’s World Series started, with the Dodgers playing for their first title since 1988 and the Boston Red Sox playing for their first title since 2013, Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia scoffed at the notion that his team’s fans might be offended, or even concerned, at how long the games take to complete.

“No one remembers game times of the 2013 World Series,” Pedroia said.
“Nobody cares. But they know who won.”

Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ third baseman, loves to tell the story of how he was watching from his grandmother’s house when Kirk Gibson hit his legendary 1988 home run. That is the kind of story the league should be selling.

The Gibson game took three hours and four minutes. The average postseason game took three hours and 29 minutes last year, three hours and 35 minutes this year (excluding extra-inning games, since an 18-inning game that goes almost 7 ½ hours skews the numbers).

Turner said the additional half-hour — some because analytical theories have led to more strikeouts, walks and pitching changes, some because of extra time for television commercials — should not cause fans to lose interest.

“The games are long, but I think they’re action-packed,” Turner said. “They’re full of entertainment. If you look at last year’s World Series — and not just because I played in it, but as a fan looking from the outside in — it was probably one of the best World Series that I’ve ever seen. The action, the back and forth, the excitement, having the fans hanging on the edge of their seat. I don’t think they’re going anywhere.”

But the late nights, and the children … won’t someone please think of the children?

“They can hang with it,” Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “I believe in the kids.”

The cries of “the kids can’t stay up late” are repetitive and outdated. You might have had to gather around the family television set to watch Gibson’s home run 30 years ago, but today you can watch on your phone. A quarter of a million people did exactly that when the Red Sox clinched Sunday — a relatively small but fast-growing segment of the audience.

The kids might even sneak a phone under their covers at bedtime, just as the kids of the Gibson generation could do with a transistor radio. The final score and the highlights are available on demand now, so kids can click and check when they wake up in the morning.

Baseball is the fastest-growing major team sport in the United States, and more kids under 12 play baseball (or softball) than any other sport, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Assn.

“You can’t ignore the fact that it keeps growing,” Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier said. “It’s not like it’s a steady dip.”

In reality and in image, Manfred’s dogged pursuit of a 20-second pitch clock has backfired. It leaves the false impression that knocking three minutes off the game time will solve the riddle of slow play, and it antagonizes the players who resent the “agree to this, or else” push from the owners.

“If you just step on the mound and fire it in there, and you give up a home run to a fastball hitter, you probably should have thought about something else,” Pedroia said. “If that takes time, it takes time. We’re trying to win.”

Dozier said the players this winter plan to present their own proposals for speeding up games. He wouldn’t say what they were, but he understood the need for them.

“I think the culture we live in is very quick-paced,” he said. “We’ve got to have things now, in everything. Baseball might be a little drawn out. I think that’s what makes baseball rather unique. It’s without a clock.

“Some things we could keep cleaning up. We’ve done a good job of that the past few years, and we’ll continue to do that, just to speed it up a little.”

The players also would appreciate it if the league would listen closely to their ideas on how to market the game, and its greatest stars. In return, the players should appreciate that the game is an entertainment product, and that a lethargic product can tempt consumers to change the channel, or pick up a video game, or go take a hike.

Manfred is right to be concerned about alienating the audience, particularly younger fans raised on neighborhood Little League games, which take six innings and do not include two minutes between innings for television commercials. He is right to be frustrated that attempts to pack more action into a game get shouted down in the name of tradition.

The three-point shot did not kill the NBA. The Golden State Warriors are a joy
to watch, precisely because the three-point rule breathed new life into the league.

The world’s most popular sport, soccer, limits substitutions to three per game. That, really, is where baseball should consider reform: some sort of limit on substitutions. Too many matchup decisions are more of a bane than too many seconds between pitches.

The NFL has uniquely positioned itself for popularity. Your team plays once a week, usually on Sunday. There is plenty of dead time in football, just as there is in baseball, but dead time in football can be devoted to checking on the players on your fantasy league team.

Why is three hours too long for an MLB game, but not too long for an NFL game? In part, it is because the NFL does not talk about how long its games are. Manfred should stop talking so much about that.

And, above all, stop talking about television ratings. No one would ever say, “Gee, I would have watched the World Series, but the ratings were bad, so I didn’t.” Grow the game, and the ratings might follow — or they might not, since determining popularity based on how many people watch the game on their living room television might not be an optimal measurement for the streaming generation.

Borrow a page from the managers, and the general managers. Any question about ratings should be met with this response: “We’re just here to talk about baseball.”

When the popular narrative leans more to “baseball is dying” than “football players are dying,” the message ought to go beyond a pitch clock.
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sunnyblue



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PostPosted: Thu 11/1/18 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perception is never reality. He makes a point but I still think some fans will complain.
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