BELOIT, WI (WTVO/WQRF)–Are you tired of Major League Baseball games typically going three, three-and-a-half, even four hours? The growing length of baseball games has been a pet peeve of mine for several years now. Baseball officials have finally agreed. They are testing out a pitch clock at some levels of the minor leagues this year in an attempt to speed things up. The High-A Midwest League which the Beloit Sky Carp play in is one of those leagues.
The clock is right there on the centerfield fence at ABC Supply Stadium in clear view for the batters. There are two more clocks behind home plate in clear view of left-handed and right-handed pitchers. If there are no runners on base, there are 14 seconds between pitches. If there is a runner on base or multiple runners, pitchers have 18 seconds to make the next pitch. If the clock hits zero before the pitch is delivered, the pitcher is penalized with an automatic “ball” call.
“I fell victim to the violation a couple times last week, but that was really my first interaction struggling with it,” said Sky Carp starting pitcher Matt Givin.
There is pressure on the hitters too to speed up play. Once the ball is in the pitcher’s hand the batter has nine seconds to get set in the batters’ box, or he can be penalized with an automatic “strike” call.
Sky Carp catcher Will Banfield says that can be tricky at times. “14 seconds with a batter needing to be ready in nine seconds is kind of a little bit, not enough time. As a hitter, you foul one off or something like that, and you want to reset. That pitch clock starts right when the ball is fouled off, and then another ball is thrown into play, so it’s kind of tough to be able to step out of the box, reset and then get back in.”
Batters are allowed to call “time” once per at bat to regroup. Pitchers can step off the rubber twice to buy more time, but the clock generally keeps ticking. It’s toughest on pitchers who are struggling says Sky Carp pitcher Tyler Mitzel.
“I know one thing we have talked about in the bullpen is that if a guy is out there struggling, struggling to throw strikes or getting hit around a little bit, we want time to take a deep breath, kind of reset our body a little bit, and with that pitch clock you just really don’t have time for that.”
So how often do the Sky Carp pitchers find themselves glancing at the clock?
“I try not to look at it just to keep my eye on the glove and stay locked-in on the batter,” said Given, “But there are times probably right when I engage with the rubber I’ll glance over just to see hey, I’ve got nine seconds or ten seconds or something like that.”
I asked Sky Carp manager Jorge Hernandez if he hears complaints from his players about being rushed by the clock.
“No actually not. At the beginning yes, because it was something they needed to get used to, but now that we’ve been doing it all season long, they’ve gotten used to it. They like it.”
The pitch clock also speeds the pace of the action between batters. There are 30 seconds maximum before the next pitch needs to be thrown. The clock also runs between innings, only 2 minutes 15 seconds before the action picks up again.
The clock has done its job. The length of minor league games has dropped by almost half an hour from an average of 3:04 without the clock to 2:35 minutes with the clock.
The Sky Carp players have adjusted to it, and they’ve accepted it.
“In terms of speeding the game up a little bit and kind of get it moving along it’s been great,” said Banfield.
Like it or not, the players in Beloit believe the pitch clock will probably be with them for the rest of their baseball careers.
“I think so,” said Banfield. “Games are quicker, and people want that.”
“I think ultimately this is going to be better for the fans,” said Given. “As a player it’s one of those things I’m going to have to kind of get through no matter what.”
One thing all the players like about the pitch clock is they’re getting home earlier from the ballpark each night.