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Pitch clocks seem inevitable

It's taken too long to implement these. Maybe MLB itself should have a countdown clock for doing things?

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

I'm sure you've heard the news that pitch clocks are becoming a thing. In an attempt to speed up the pace of play, the league "experimented" with pitch clocks in the Arizona Fall League, which is a moderately disguised way of saying, "We're starting at the bottom. Get ready for this." It has recently been floated around the internet that the pitch clocks will be established in AA and AAA this year, but MLB probably won't adopt them in 2015. If they're already in AA and AAA after a short experimentation period, you can fly to Vegas, go to a casino, and place a bet that there will be pitch clocks in MLB soon. You'll probably lose money though. It's an expensive town.

For those unfamiliar, the pitch clock tested in the Arizona Fall League was 20 seconds. If a pitcher failed to deliver the ball in that time, the umpire called a ball.

I'm ecstatic for this change. Football has a play clock. Basketball has a shot clock. According to Wikipedia, even televised bowling events have a shot clock. Hockey doesn't have a shot clock, but I don't know anything about hockey. Soccer doesn't have a shot clock, but their game clock don't stop til it gets enough. Baseball just has a rule that it doesn't enforce because of traditions or whatever. It's no secret that game length is increasing. This is a good step to reduce the length of games and hold the attention of youngsters who are probably playing with iPads anyway.

Since we're interested in the Royals here, I'm interested in which Royals pitchers would be affected by a pitch clock. Below is a table of each pitcher who has "Pace" data from FanGraphs. Pace is the average number of seconds between pitches. I do not believe the playoffs or spring training are included in the dataset. Assume that the pitch clock remained at 20 seconds in the MLB.

Name Pace
Jason Frasor 26.8
Wade Davis 26.5
Greg Holland 25.7
Wilking Rodriguez 25.7
Kelvin Herrera 25.5
Brandon Finnegan 25.3
Francisley Bueno 24.6
Scott Downs 24.0
Danny Duffy 23.2
Donnie Joseph 22.9
Tim Collins 22.7
Michael Mariot 22.7
Aaron Crow 22.6
James Shields 22.4
Casey Coleman 22.0
Louis Coleman 21.8
Justin Marks 21.7
Aaron Brooks 21.6
Jason Vargas 21.2
Liam Hendriks 20.8
Jeremy Guthrie 20.7
Yordano Ventura 20.1
Bruce Chen 19.8


But seriously. Ventura and Guthrie would be relatively unaffected. Vargas would have to speed up slightly. It's mostly the relievers who would be affected, which makes sense. Relievers can pitch very high leverage innings, so they may take slightly more time to adjust their jockstraps, hats, and belts and wipe their noses to make sure all is cosmically right before throwing the ball.

As a team in 2014, the Royals were on the lower end of team pace at 22.3 seconds. The Blue Jays were the quickest at 21.1 seconds. Mark Buehrle helped out there. The Rays were the slowest at 25.6 seconds. The Royals might be less affected than other teams on the whole, but much of their success was tied to the HDH trio, who take a long time to throw the ball.

Would forcing slower pitchers to pitch more quickly decrease their performance? It's possible, but that's really getting out there in speculation. You could go through the mental aspects, like the pitcher getting more nervous if he doesn't have a pitch decided by the 10 second countdown. That could be a real thing. It's also possible that pitchers will stop wandering around and won't be affected much. We'll have to wait to find out.

Another aspect of the pitch clocks is the batter. Part of the problem is that the batter hops out and readjusts everything between each pitch. There are separate rules being discussed to address this.

There could be unintended consequences. What about timeouts? Will catchers call time more often? Will coaches run to the mound more often? There are things that need to be worked out to make sure the actual effect is not the opposite of the intended effect. There are ways to limit these things as well. MLB just needs to decide on which ones.

I'm in favor of shorter games. I'm in favor of increasing the percentage of time during which there is action over inaction. This is a good step. Now the clock is ticking on implementing the change.