Jason Stark, Patrick Mooney, Nick Crook, C. Trent Rosecrans and Andy McCullough
MLB’s 15 games on Opening Day averaged 2 hours 45 minutes Thursday, 26 minutes less than last year’s average, marking a successful regular-season start to the pitch clock introduced to shorten games as part of the league’s new rule changes. Here’s what you need to know:
- On Opening Day last year, seven games were played, averaging 3 hours and 11 minutes.
- None of the first seven games completed Thursday went as long as the average time of last year’s Opening Day games.
- Only two of the first seven games completed this year were longer than last year’s shortest game on Opening Day. Last year’s shortest opening day was 2 hours 49 minutes.
- Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman committed his first regular-season pitch-clock violation, while Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was the first hitter called for a pitch-clock violation Thursday.
More significant numbers
On Thursday, the Orioles’ 10-9 win over the Red Sox was one of only two games in the first seven to last 2:49 or longer, lasting 3 hours and 10 minutes.
The Reds vs. Pirates game lasted 3 hours and 2 minutes. There were 15 walks and 26 strikeouts in the contest, and neither team’s starters lasted more than five innings.
How did the pitch clock work?
By the end of spring training, not only had everyone gotten used to the pitch clock, but it seemed as if they had forgotten about it — except to celebrate a one-hour, 52-minute game, as Reds starter Graham Ashcroft did in late spring. .
On Thursday, both Pirates and Reds starters had pitch clock violations, and both of those plate appearances ended in home runs to batters. Is it related? Probably not, but in the regular season, more so than in the spring, the results don’t matter.
In the end, though, even though the game felt like a slog, especially with 15 walks and 26 strikeouts, the announced game time was still 3:02, which would have been considered a quick game a year ago. — Rosecrans
Pitch-clock effects canceled in Reds, Pirates Opening Day matchup
I’m here to inform you that the clock works on the west coast as well. Take the game between the Padres and the Rockies. San Diego starter Blake Snell pitched at his usual ineffective clip. He needed 24 pitches to complete the first innings. He had thrown three to 70 pitches. The reliever behind him wasn’t much better in a 7-2 loss to Colorado. The box score suggests a fast-paced, back-to-back match. The game still finished in 2:56, 10 minutes less than the average game in 2022.
Other games of late were also breezy. The Mariners beat the Guardians in 2:14 for a neat, 3-0 win. The Athletics beat the Angels 2-1 in 2:30. The Dodgers outscored the Diamondbacks 8-2 in 2:35 — and it was a game that featured five different Arizona pitchers and several mid-inning pitching changes.
It’s hard to argue with the initial results. Time will tell – pardon the pun – about the long-range effects of the clock. But you cannot question the reduction of dead air. — McCullough
What does opening day time tell us about the influence of the clock?
Spring training games moved at a pace we hadn’t seen in more than 40 years. Games in the spring average two hours and 35 minutes — That was 26 minutes less than last spring and 31 minutes less than the average regular season game last year.
For all sorts of logical reasons, no one in the game thought the momentum was sustainable this year once the season started. But 2:40? Maybe 2:45? Somewhere in that range there was real hope that an average would do. Thursday’s games seemed to prove that.
The first nine games of the day averaged exactly 2:45. Five was less than that. Four was the longest.
Also a 10-9 game in Boston — It featured 44 baserunners, 10 pitch changes, two pinch-hitters and two pinch-runners. — Lasted only 3:10. A year ago on Opening Day, it was a 3-1 Astros-Angels game — Contains just 18 base runners — Towed at 3:15 p.m. And not a single game was finished in 2:45 all day.
What did Thursday’s game times tell us? Pitch clocks can have their violations and unintended consequences. But do they work? Do they void all dead time in these games? Do they keep game time to a manageable length? No doubt. — Stark
What are they saying?
Stroman committed the violation in the third inning of Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Brewers with Christian Yelich at-bat and no outs. The violation was called after Stroman returned to look at Bryce Durang from second base. After an automatic ball tied the game at 2-2, he worked a walk to Yelich.
Stroman spent part of spring training at the World Baseball Classic, which does not feature a pitch clock, and admitted there were times when he felt a “super rush” on the mound.
“I don’t think people really realize that it adds a whole lot of thought,” Stroman said. “You’ve got to be aware of the clock. You’re trying to worry about the pitch. You’re basically trying to worry about the guys. You’re trying to worry about your grip. There’s a lot going on right now.
He gave up three walks and three hits while getting eight strikeouts. Stroman noted that he is a pitcher who can “get off the mound and take a breather when I need to.”
“I don’t get a chance to do that anymore,” Stroman said. “Breathing is so important to aligning the body and putting you in the right position to deliver the ball to the plate. Like I said, I think it messes up a lot of guys’ pitching routines, which ultimately affects the way they pitch.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking on the air during Thursday’s Rangers TV broadcast, said the league “doesn’t leave our foot in stone” when it comes to the pitch clock. Manfred said he hopes referees will use some discretion late in games to allow for slower, tense moments. During spring training, managers and players around the league expressed concern that a game could end in a pitch clock violation or a situation where a tight end is too urgent.
Manfred said Jacob deGrom’s PitchCom device malfunctioned, stopping the game in Texas for several minutes.
In the Red Sox game against the Orioles, Devers walked out of the batter’s box in the eighth inning and didn’t set down until eight seconds after striking out, resulting in his violation. Having already had two strikes, he left after the infraction. Baltimore won 10-9.
Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson was asked about the rules before Wednesday’s workout.
“Oh, I have a lot of ideas,” Swanson said. “I don’t need any of them to get me in trouble. I think we can definitely make some changes. But like I said at the beginning, we have three options. One is to complain about it all year, which isn’t going to do anyone any good. The second is to embrace it and let it go. Finding ways to use it to our advantage. Nobody’s going to play third, and I don’t think that’s going to happen either. So we have an option, just to embrace it and use it to our advantage and do what we can to play this new brand of baseball.
MLB introduced the pitch clock in the spring, which was intended to regulate entertainment for fans. Pitchers get 20 seconds to start their throwing motion and 15 seconds with runners on base. Umpires will award a ball to pitchers who do not begin their swing before the clock expires and will issue a strike to batters who are not in the box and issue a “pitcher warning” within eight seconds.
The commissioner’s office said in September that last year’s implementation of a pitch clock in the minor leagues reduced the average length of games by 25 minutes.
(Photo: Michael Reeves/Getty Images)