MLB pitch clock broadens horizons for the sports industry

Caroline Hendrix, Opinions Editor

It is not everyday that major rule changes are made to a sport. The professional sports that we watch today have existed for centuries and have remained relatively similar to how they were when they were first created. So when Major League Baseball decides to introduce a pitch clock, it is breaking news. 

The MLB outlines the use of the pitch clock: “in an effort to create a quicker pace of play, a 30-second timer between batters will be implemented in 2023. Between pitches, a 15-second timer will be in place with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.” ESPN notes that the pitch clock was tested in past minor league seasons and its success is a main driver of its implementation into the major leagues. 

This rule has implications for both pitchers and hitters. The New York Times explains that if pitchers use more than the allotted 15 or 20 seconds, this will lead to an awarded walk for the batter. And if batters are not in the batter’s box within the final eight seconds of the allotted time, they will get a strike. Therefore, the pitch clock provides both teams an incentive to be timely. 

Is the introduction of the pitch clock an asset? Signs point to yes. New York Times contributor Steve Kettmann explains that while he was at first wary about the pitch clock, as I expect many baseball fans were, he shifted his opinion swiftly when he saw how it eliminated dead time from pitchers and batters, creating a sense of heightened energy that lasts the entire game rather than fluctuating. Concurrently, CBS Sports reports a drop in the average amount of time in a nine-inning game by 25 minutes from three hours and three minutes last season to two hours and 38 minutes. 

A rule change such as this one shows how there is still room for growth in the sports we thought were already established. The success of the pitch clock creates opportunities for baseball and other sports to develop and implement technology to improve the quality of the game. And this holds true so long as the integrity of the game is upheld. 

Technological advancement has transformed our viewing experience and relationship to the game and its players. Bleacher Report discusses how instant replay could be the most important, as it has allowed officials and viewers to ensure the accuracy of any calls or plays in real time. Additionally, players can use technology to improve their performance and they can also interact with fans more directly through social media. 

But leagues should be wary about major technological changes if they actually hinder the viewing or playing experience. For instance, Kettmann notes how baseball has implemented another new rule that bans defensive shifts as a direct outcome of technology, where analytics showed that it might increase action for offense. He notes how this removes a sense of excitement and unpredictability for players and viewers. 

ESPN also explains that “players on the competition committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the pitch clock and banning of the shift.” Rule changes should be accepted by the players who are affected by them the most and at the very least, their feedback should be taken into consideration before a decision is made. Technology should improve the game, not replace it or take the magic out of it. 

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