Pitchers Taking Too Long Slows The Game Down

Major League Baseball has a big problem right now with its pace. Games are way too long. In the 1950s baseball games lasted about 2.5 hours tops. Now you’re lucky if you’re out in three hours. Some say all the gimmicks and commercials between innings slow down the game.  But it’s the pitchers taking too long that slows it to a crawl. Pitchers are taking more time than ever to focus, wind up, meet with infielders on the mound, and calculate their next pitch.

Part of this issue includes the time lapse between pitches. The Red Sox David Price tookpitchers slowing 25.8 seconds between pitches in 2013 and 26.6 seconds in 2014. Oddly enough, Price did better when he worked faster. His ERA dipped below 3 when he spent 24 seconds or less between pitches. It jumped to almost 3.50 when he approached 27 seconds. But when runners get on base and the score tightens, managers and pitchers take more time to huddle up. Walking out to the mound, chatting with the infield, and mentally preparing for the next batter might be okay for the super die-hard fans, but it’s doing absolutely nothing to keep the younger fan base engaged. In anything, it’s driving them away.

A Solution For Pitchers Taking Their Time

The Atlantic League found a way cut down on this problem. Starting in 2014, coaches can visits the mound only thee times during the course of one game when they are not making a pitching change. They get 45 seconds to talk. If they go over then a ball is charged to the next batter. This approach would not only speed up ballgames, but it would cut down on the amount of time pitchers spend thinking about each pitch. In fact, pitchers could learn from Carl Yastrzemski’s words of wisdom, “The only time I don’t think about [baseball] is when I’m playing it.”

Pitchers Taking Their Time Slows Everything Down

Last February I spent a few hours with former Red Sox infielder Ted Lepcio. He played for Boston in the 1950s and recalled how uncommon it was for the entire infield to come to the mound for meetings. “The whole infield didn’t come in to meet. I don’t get why they do that today.” So why so many more meetings nowadays?

Some say it’s a psychological move. Meet as an infield and you make the opposing batter nervous. Walk off the mound right before a wind up breaks the other team’s momentum. Bringing in reliever and reliever keeps the opposing team guessing. But is all this necessary? Is it making the games more insightful or just plain boring?

Real fans want to see pitching duels. Fans want to see hit and runs. They want to see steals. They don’t want to get wrapped up in a play only for their own excitement to get killed off because the Yankees Joe Girardi wants to bring in another reliever. Purists can say that new rules aren’t meant to be all they want. But if the game is going to remain a spectator sport it’s going to have to come up with new and innovative ways to stay interesting.

Red Sox Seized 1st Place for First Time This Season

On Tuesday, June 20th the New York Yankees lost their seventh straight game. After a dominating win over the Houston Astros, the Red Sox pulled ahead of their long-time rivals to take first place. The AL East is heating up as the Red Sox seized first place, albeit temporarily. This is only the beginning of a battle for first place with the Orioles not too far behind with a dog of their own in the fight.

But oh how the mighty have fallen…

The Yankees held an at-times commanding lead in the AL East before their bullpen fellred sox seized apart. Manager Joe Girardi has 100% faith in reliever Aroldis Chapman right now but that’s about it. All their other relievers couldn’t save a file on a Macbook. Girardi also can’t quite plug the hole at first base either. The Red Sox took advantage of their rival’s deficiencies and managed to pull ahead. But that only lasted a day after losing two out of three to Kansas City.

Red Sox Seized First Place By Default

The Red Sox didn’t pull ahead of the Yankees because they started playing better. John Farrell didn’t suddenly find a magic lineup. The Red Sox managed to gain first place because the Yankees started playing badly. So in a way you could argue that the Red Sox seized first place by default. This is why it’s the perfect time to shake things up.

Now Is Their Chance To Hold Onto First

The Red Sox have had plenty of time to figure out what does and doesn’t work. At this point they should focus less on platooning and more on consistency. Keep Josh Rutledge at third base. Keep Christian Vazquez behind the plate. He’s got a killer arm and his batting average is steadily climbing. Keep Sam Travis in Boston and send Matt Barnes down to Pawtucket, or just trade him.

As the last few seasons have proven, first place in the AL East is anyone’s for grab. Well except for Tampa Bay, they haven’t been contenders for years. But with Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore having made the playoffs in the last few years, and now the Yankees vying for a spot, the Red Sox can’t afford to lose anymore ground. This is their time to go with what works and dump what doesn’t.

Are Baseball Games Longer Than Ever?

Last June my friend Charles and I saw the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles. A fierce pitching duel unfolded between the O’s Chris Tillman and the Sox David Price, who struck out eleven in eight innings. Unfortunately, the Red Sox still lost 3-2. Throughout the game, Charles, a baseball writer, and I talked about the strong pitching. However, we were the only ones who appreciated it. Looking around, people seemed more interested in their Jason Varitek bobbleheads and their iPhones than the game. With baseball games longer than they were thirty years ago, are people losing interest?

It’s true that baseball games are tedious to watch. The art of hitting is appreciated by onlyBaseball Games Longer the most diehard baseball fan, but it can make baseball games longer. Hitting foul ball after foul ball gets old for fans and I can’t say I haven’t felt that way, too. So why are baseball games longer than ever? Aside from corporate reasons, it’s a combination of manager strategy, pitcher duels, injuries, instant replays, and most of all, pitching changes.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware of the complaints. In fact, Commissioner Manfred is considering limiting their use. “I am in favor of something like that,” Manfred said. “…You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers…they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.”

Personally, I hate it when relief pitchers come in during a game. The Yankees Joe Girardi’s platooning strategy, a Yankee manager favorite dating back to when Casey Stengel ran the team, is particularly infuriating. Why can’t the manager wait until the end of the inning? Because sometimes he doesn’t have a choice, especially when the pitcher’s poor performance is running up the opposing score. So the managers brings in a relief pitcher to stop the runs (if he’s good). That’s great for the team, but is it what the fans came out to see? Unless you’re a real die-hard fan, probably not. On the other hand, managers will tell you they’re not there to entertain fans. They’re there to win games, and if that means slowing the game down to win then so be it.

With Baseball Games Longer, How Do You Keep It interesting?

According to Forbes.com, the average length of a baseball game in 1981 was 2 hours and 33 minutes. Last season, according to the New York Post, the New York Mets completed games faster than any other team in baseball with an average time of 2 hours and 46 minutes. Last year MLB tried stop clocks. Personally, I thought they helped a lot. Turns out I’m in the minority regarding that thought.

This issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. To limit relievers, or anything else for that matter, would jeopardize the integrity of the game. Maybe it’s not the game that’s changed though. Maybe it’s people’s inability to focus. People’s attention spans aren’t nearly as long as they used to be, especially when iPhones and texting make us crave instant gratification more than ever.

Personally, I think the pace of baseball games would pick up faster by doing two things. The opposing team should take the field immediately following the third out, which would cut the game down by 20 minutes. Secondly, limit relief pitching, but only for Joe Girardi (Seriously, he does it too much!).

AL East Dynamic Changing

AL East

In one game, the dynamic of the AL East has changed.  Demspter drilled A-Rod to the joy of the fans and satisfied whatever personal vendetta he had, but the plunking backfired.  At the time of the HBP the Sox were up 2-0, at the end of the inning the game was tied up.  But the Yankees had all the momentum in the world.  Manager Joe Girardi exploded from the dugout, justly defending his player, screaming red-faced, and slamming his hat to the ground.  Girardi would be ejected, but the Yankees rallied around the emotional tirade and would go on to take two of three games in a hostile, playoff-like Fenway.

Dempster’s focus should not have been on plunking A-Rod, but getting him out; especially in the heat of a pennant race.  Win, above all else.

The Sox are on thin ice.  The Yankees were surging before the intense Sunday night game, now they are looking to make a late season run.  All the momentum has swung to them.  The Sox are 4-6 in their last ten and the Yanks are 7-3.

But the Yankees are the least of our worries. The Rays pose a much more imminent threat for the division lead being only a game.

The Sox are scuffling and about to embark on a dangerous six game west coast swing.  The Giants aren’t the team they’ve been the past two years, but the Sox will face a hot Tim Lincecum in the series opener.  Then they must deal with the scorching, blazing, smoking, white, red, hot Dodgers.  They are on a dominant 42-9 run.  The Sox are vulnerable right now; they must not take the Giants lightly, and then bring everything they have against the Dodgers.