Baltimore Orioles: Speeding Up Games in MLB


Apr 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles first baseman

Chris Davis

(19) checks his gloves before batting in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.The Toronto Blue Jays won 9-3. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

A number of Baltimore Orioles players are far from the only ones who have nervous habits that, when combined pitch after pitch, contribute to the problem throughout Major League Baseball of the slow pace of games.

Think about some of our favorite boys on the O’s, and picture them at the plate or on the mound. Like many in MLB, they have to first unloosen, and then tighten each batting glove.

  • Nick Markakis will then slap the barrel of the bat, stretch out both arms, touch the far corner of the plate, adjust his helmet, and finally get back in the box.
  • Chris Davis will stick the barrel of the bat under his armpit and pull it through as if he is wiping off some poop dropped by a low-flying seagull from the inner harbor.
  • J.J. Hardy will stick one foot out of the box and adjust his helmet two or three times, just to make sure it is still there.
  • Adam Jones will step out of the box and tap the toes of his shoes on both feet to knock the mud out of his cleats, even on dry days in the heat of the summer when there is no mud west of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Bud Norris will take a lap around the mound every time he gets a new baseball, putting his glove under his arm while he “rubs up” the ball and stares into center field.
  • Brian Matusz will adjust the bill of this cap an average of seven times between each pitch.

It all adds up. And baseball games are longer than ever.

Now that I am becoming a legitimately old man, it is interesting to have long-term memories as to how things used to be, versus how they are today. I can remember a time where football games felt interminably long relative to watching baseball. Now, as I watch Ravens games, I cannot believe how quickly they feel like they zip past.

Everything about modern life is faster – cars, meals, commercials, and communications of all sorts – except baseball. It is trending against the flow of culture, and this is not likely a good thing for the well-being of the sport.

And so, in the Arizona Fall League this year, MLB experimented with a pitch clock and varied rules in an effort to speed up the games. This all occurred in one venue over 16 games at the home of the Salt River Rafters. The Orioles players on the Glendale Desert Dogs played there in the final of these games.

The main component used toward quickening games was a 20-second pitch clock. All totaled, the pitch-clock games were about 10 minutes faster than the historic games’ lengths in the Arizona Fall League.

I will say that I think 10 minutes faster per game is a worthy outcome. One might have expected more, but still, it is an improvement.

There were five clocks that tracked the time between pitches. An automatic ball was called if the pitcher held the baseball too long.

Likewise, batters were disallowed stepping both feet out of the box, expect for situations like foul balls, passed balls, wild pitches, drag bunts, etc.

Intentional walks were to be automatically given without the throwing of the pitches. And each team was allowed only three “time out” conferences per game – including meetings between pitches/catchers, coaches/pitchers, infielders/pitchers, etc.  This did not include pitching changes or coming out to see about injuries.

The time between innings was strictly held to 2:05.

I will say I applaud these changes and hope to see them enacted. And I am surprised that I have come to this position. Something I have always enjoyed about baseball was that it did not have a clock governing it like other sports. But honestly, these changes are still well short of that similarity.

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All of this requires teams and players to have systems and ways of communicating what they are doing. It requires more organization, preparation and planning. And honestly, given Buck Showalter’s attention to details, these changes would give the Orioles more advantages over most other teams.

The time has come for the time to become monitored in games. If nothing else, it will help guys like me not have to stay up as late every night in baseball season filing an article for the next morning!