With Opening Day a week away, Major League Baseball is making slight adjustments to the new pitch timer, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN. The core pitch timer rules -- 15 seconds with the bases empty, 20 seconds with runners on base, hitters must be alert to the pitcher at the eight-second mark -- are unchanged.
Players on the league's joint competition committee raised concerns and suggested several adjustments to the pitch timer recently, and the new changes are "important in my mind because they're responsive to things players said to us," commissioner Rob Manfred told the Associated Press. Other, more significant adjustments, could be made at a later date.
"We have another set of issues that we want to see some regular season games before we make a decision on them," Manfred told the Associated Press. "I've met with six teams' players already. Our feet are not in stone on this. On the one hand, and we are prepared to make adjustments based on input. On the other hand, we want to give it a chance to see exactly how it plays out after a period of adjustment in some regular-season games before we make any really significant alteration."
The adjustments are common sense changes, such as giving the pitcher more time to return to the mound after being involved in a defensive play (covering first base, backing up home plate, etc.) and giving the catcher additional time to put on his gear after running the bases or making the final out of the inning on offense. The league will also evaluate bat boys and bat girls. From ESPN:
New standards will be enforced for batboys and batgirls, whose ability to quickly retrieve equipment will help efforts to speed up the game, according to the memo. The league will evaluate the performances of batboys and batgirls and could ask teams to replace them if it's considered substandard.
That seems like overkill, though it's not often games are delayed by bat boys and bat girls, so they should be in the clear. They all hustle to retrieve equipment and foul balls, and do their jobs well.
The average time of game is 2:36 this spring, down from 3:01 last spring. The 25-minute decrease is consistent with the 21-minute decrease when a 14-second pitch timer was introduced at Triple-A last season. The average MLB game last regular season was 3:06 per nine innings, down from the all-time high 3:11 in 2021.
Pitch timer violations have gradually declined from 2.03 per game the first week of spring to 1.49 the second, 1.13 the third, and 1.03 the fourth. That too is consistent with Triple-A last year. Last season Triple-A players eventually whittled it down to one violation every other game.