A Month In, MiLB Pitch Clock Rules Still Showing Massive Effect
When we first wrote about the new pitch clock rules, we noted that it was producing massive reductions in the time of games around the minor leagues. But that was just a few days of data. It was reasonable to suggest that it would be prudent to wait and see if the trends continued.
It’s now been a month since the new pitch clock rules were instituted, and the data is, if anything, even clearer. The pitch clock rules have dramatically sped up games.
With the new rules, MiLB games are significantly faster both in time of game and in pace of play. Since the new pitch clock rules were adopted on April 15, the average MiLB nine-inning game has taken 2:35 to play. In the two weeks of the season without pitch clock rules, nine-inning games were lasting 2:59 on average. In 2021, the average nine-inning MiLB game without these pitch clock rules took 3:00 to play. That’s a 13.4% reduction in the time of game.
In comparison, the average MLB nine-inning game is taking 3:05 to play this year.
This reduction in game time has not come about because of a dramatic change in the number of batters or baserunners. The average 2022 MiLB game sees 37.95 plate appearances per team, up from 37.78 plate appearances per team in 2021. Teams are averaging 4.93 runs per game this year compared to 5.04 runs last year with 7.9 hits this year vs. 8.1 last year. Last year, MiLB teams averaged 147.7 pitches per game. This year teams are averaging 148.4 pitches per game.
The amount of action happening in these games is roughly the same as it was last year, including virtually identical numbers of pitches per game. And the time allotted for between-inning changeovers and pitching changes has not been altered. But roughly 24 minutes per game have been cut by eliminating time between pitches and between at-bats.
The MiLB pitch clock rules require a pitcher to throw a pitch within 14 seconds of the previous pitch with no one on base and 18 seconds with a runner on base (19 seconds in Triple-A). Batters are expected to be in the batter’s box and ready to hit with nine seconds to go on the pitch clock. If a pitcher fails to throw a pitch in time, it is an automatic ball. If a hitter is not ready, it is an automatic strike.
There are signs that everyone involved is adjusting to the rules. The number of pitch clock violations called has steadily dropped. In the first week of the new rules, there were 1.54 pitch clock violations per game. The next week, those dropped to 1.19 per game. The following week there were 0.93 and the past week there have been 0.68 violations per game.
While the number of violations being called keeps dropping, the time of the games has remained consistent. If anything, it’s speeding up a little. In the first week with the new rules, the average nine-inning game took 2:36 to play. A week later, it dropped to 2:35. The next week, the average game took 2:33. And last week, it took 2:34. As of yet, there is no sign that the pace of play and the game time are ticking back up, something that has generally been an issue with speed-up rules in the past.
The shift in the range of game times if anything has been even more dramatic. The quickest nine-inning game in the minors last year was played in 2:05. This year, the quickest game took 1:42 and there have been 53 games in the first month of the new rules that were faster than the quickest game of 2021. This year, 10% of games are taking three hours or longer to play. Last year, that percentage was 55%.
A fan attending a game this year has a much higher chance of seeing a game played in 2:15 or quicker than a fan in 2021 had of seeing a game played in under 2:30.
|Game Time As Percentage of Total Games|
|2:00 or Under||2.05%||0.00%|
|*With Current Pitch Clock Rules|
#Without Current Pitch Clock Rules
Since the rules were instituted, High-A's Hillsboro has averaged 2:13 per nine-inning game while High-A Spokane has averaged 2:14 per game.
Triple-A Corpus Christi is averaging 2:59 per nine-inning home game. Fellow Triple-A teams El Paso (2:54), Norfolk (2:53) and Sacramento (2:52) are the other teams averaging more than 2:50 in game time per home game.