Faster baseball is helping the Guardians get off to a good start
Major League Baseball games are about a half hour shorter in the new season, thanks to a pitch clock designed to speed up the pace of play. Ideastream Public Media's sports commentator Terry Pluto believes faster baseball is better for the sport and it’s helping the Guardians get off to a fast start.
“Right now, the average baseball game is being played in 2 hours and 38 minutes. That's exactly what was being played in 1980. And then it started creeping up. And when we moved into the 2000s, that's when you got the average game time of three hours,” Pluto said. "Well, that's gone."
Pitchers have 15 seconds between pitches to start their delivery when there are no baserunners and 20 seconds when there is at least one baserunner. Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds left on the clock. Batters can call time out once per plate appearance, stopping the countdown, and the pitcher can have two "disengagements" per batter.
Pluto said the only thing the pitch clock is taking away from the game is quirky batter and pitcher routines.
“Pitchers [are] just walking around all over the place. Hitters [are] stepping out after every pitch and adjusting batting gloves and helmets, whereas now it's just a better game to play and a better game to watch,” he said.
Pluto said the new rules fit into how the Guardians play. First, the rules favor base stealing. Cleveland has stolen eight bases in the first five games of the season.
“It's a little complicated, but basically you can only throw over to first base twice to try to pick a runner off. After that, you get a chance to steal," Pluto said. "They keep saying the bases are a little bigger. At first, I wondered why they did it. It's not to increase stolen bases. A lot of times you would have a runner going down the line and then the pitchers coming over to cover first base and they get tangled up. Or, the first baseman's foot would run into the runner’s foot. In other words, there was injuries happening from this. It's a safety thing; it was a good move. And it also just sets up if you're going to steal bases.”
Pluto got some perspective on the Guardians’ style of play from their newly-acquired first baseman, Josh Bell.
“I was talking to him in spring training and he goes, ‘I have never been with a team like this. Every day they talk about going from first to third on a single.’ Like last year, no team went more first to third than the Guardians did," Pluto said. "They talk about the dirt ball thing. ‘When the pitches in the dirt,’ he says, ‘Keep your eyes open. If that thing hits the dirt, [and] you think you can go, take that extra base. And run hard on every grounder.”
Pluto said the Guardians have a become a tough team to play.
“Scott Servais, who is the manager of the Seattle Mariners, who they opened the season with, said, 'You can't fall asleep on these guys.' They're almost like a basketball team that presses you, you know, that forces you into mistakes," said Pluto. "And they've been moving in this direction, it just took off last year. And it's even in, I think, in a higher gear early this season.”