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Taking a look at pitch clock violations for the Royals

It’s been half a season, who are the worst pitch clock offenders?

Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A lot of (virtual) ink has been spilled talking about how the pitch clock is speeding up games, and maybe even increasing attendance. The down side is that occasionally one of the players you root for gets an extra ball or strike because they did not conform to the new rules. Let’s take a look at how the Royals have handled this, as well as some of the more interesting players and teams around the league with respect to the new rule.

Overall, Royals pitchers have been among the best at avoiding clock violations. Finally, this team is good at something! Through July 3 they have only been given 12 automatic balls, good for a tie at 28th in the league with the Rays. Only the Minnesota Twins have fewer, and they have 11.

The batters have not been as judicious when trying to avoid violations. Nine times the Royals have gotten an extra strike by not getting set up in time. Only the Mets, Red Sox, Marlins, Nats, Phillies, and Padres have had more. In general, more pitchers get called for violations than hitters. Through July 3 only 200 batting violations have happened versus 495 pitching violations league-wide. That might sound like a lot, but there have been 96,216 plate appearances, meaning violation happens in only 0.7% of PAs. Maybe less if any plate appearances have had more than one violation, which I was not able to find out.

For the individual offenders on the team, only Edward Olivares (3 violations) and Nicky Lopez (2) have been rung up more than once. Similarly, only two pitchers have more than one. Both Taylor Clarke and Aroldis Chapman have had two violations. That makes Olivares the leader in the clubhouse. In fact, he is tied for the most in baseball of any hitter. There are twelve hitters with three violations each, but no one with four or more. Hitters seem to all be taking that extra strike seriously.

Not all pitchers are as concerned evidently, especially Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has racked up 10 violations, almost as many as the entire Royals pitching staff, and he is a reliever. That means he has only faced 136 batters, and given a free ball to one out of every 13.6 of them. He is by far and away the biggest offender in the league on a rate basis. A couple of starters like Chris Bassitt with eight and then a group of four guys with six in Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, Tyler Glasnow, and Joe Musgrove, are all getting more than their fair share, but they have all faced more batters than Kimbrell. Musgrove and Glasnow have faced 281 and 154 respectively, so they are the only ones getting violations even a third as often.

It looks like everyone on the Royals is doing what they are supposed to, and one-sixth of the pitching violations were just traded. As you would expect, most of the pitching violations were earlier in the season. Seven, over half of the pitching violations, were in the first month of the season. On the other hand, the hitters only had two violations in April, so for some reason they are being less diligent as the season progresses. For the league as a whole, pitchers committed the most violations in April, just like the Royals. Slightly over 41% of the pitching violations in MLB happened in the first month. League-wide, the hitters have not followed the Royals’ lead. For all of baseball, 45% of hitting violations came in April, and have tapered off a bit since. That might mean that as players settle into this, violations will become very rare.

I’m not sure there is a lot to take away from this. It does make some sense that pitchers would have more violations than hitters. A ball is less of a penalty than a strike since you get four of them versus only three for the strikes. A correlation of age and violations for pitchers might be positive, but it was too weak for me to say anything definitive. Just something to keep an eye on as the new rules evolve the game.