Kickoff clock cut MLB spring training games by 26 minutes
Using a pitch clock has cut spring training games by 26 minutes this spring compared to last year as Major League Baseball is set to use it for the first time in the regular season. from Thursday.
Games lasted 2:35 a.m. this spring, compared to 3:01 a.m. in 2022, because pitchers had 15 seconds between pitches to throw the ball when bases were unoccupied and 20 seconds when runners were on bases.
MLB regular season games averaged 3:03 last season.
The reduction in playing times is consistent with minor league experiments with a step clock over the past few seasons. Spring games were also 35 minutes shorter than WBC games – which did not use a clock – even though there were more points scored per game in spring training than the WBC, 10.2 to 9.9.
The clock app was a major story in the spring. A ball is added to the count if a pitcher is found in violation of the clock. If a batter is not in the batter’s box and ready to bat with eight seconds remaining, they are awarded a strike. Offenses for hitters and pitchers declined week-over-week during spring games with a slight increase at the end.
Week 1: 2.03 infractions per game
Week 2: 1.49
Week 3: 1.13
Week 4: 1.03
Week 5: 1.24
Week 6 (two days): 1.48
Other rule changes set to take effect on Thursday also impacted the Spring Games:
• Larger bases and a limit on kickouts from the pitching plate increased stolen base attempts from 1.6 per game to 2.3. The success rate for these attempts increased from 71.3% to 77.1%.
Bases have grown an additional 3 inches on each side this year in an effort to reduce injury and create more action on the base paths while pitchers can only get off the rubber twice per plate appearance. A third withdrawal must result in an out or a refusal will be issued.
• Eliminating the shift and requiring all infielders to start on the infield dramatically increased the batting average on balls in play for left-handed hitters, from .314 to .327. It remained almost the same for right-handers (.311/.310). Overall, the .317 BABIP for hitters this spring is the highest since at least 2016, according to league data.
The runs have remained similar, with MLB teams scoring a combined 10.6 per game last year versus 10.2 this spring. The same goes for overall batting averages, which were .259 last year and .257 this year.
The league’s goal of increasing the action and pace of play seems to have worked over the spring. Officials will be watching closely if this continues in the regular season.