How MLB pitch clock is impacting baseball’s ‘unwritten rules’
Let the game begin.
This spring, MLB introduced its pitching hours with the intention of acclimatizing players before Opening Day. The rules are simple: Pitchers have 15 seconds to start the home delivery (20 seconds with runners), while batters must be in the box and give the pitcher eight seconds of warning.
So far—and this was a surprise—more hitters than pitchers have been called out for infractions.
“We’re trying to let [hitters] know they have more time than they think,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider, “and [they can use] their timeouts properly. Such things. But yeah, definitely pitchers are a little more experienced now.”
Nathan Lux was the last Blue Jay to be burned due to a time violation. On Tuesday, the 28-year-old was late to the penalty area against the Pirates, resulting in a third strike. He insisted that he was simply giving the referee time to sit down at the plate. Despite this, the OP was notified of the violation and Lux was called.
This incident provokes an interesting discussion. What happens in these gray areas where traditional baseball courtesies are so ingrained? Waiting for a judge is one thing, but what happens when uncontrollable factors come into play? Kevin Gausman said he was literally blown off the embankment during his first spring start. If he fails to take off the serve, would that be a foul?
What about the weather? Sloppy, rainy games require pitchers to clean their spikes or touch up a rosin bag. Chris Bassitt talked about how cold weather games are a pain for pitchers who constantly have to blow on their hands.
The excitement around the clock on the field also occurs on ordinary weather days. Schneider was talking about Alec Manoa, who averaged 20.7 seconds between innings on empty bases last year and needs time to adjust. In the end, the skipper said that he thought Manoa would be smart enough to “manipulate” the feed clock.
Manipulation is an interesting choice of word. Notably, this rule, which was expected to ruin pitchers’ timing, is now being used as a weapon to get hitters out. For example, New York Mets starter Max Scherzer, an infamous player, took advantage of the quickness of the stopwatch to rush to a strikeout this spring. First, he held the ball to force the hitter to burn his only timeout. Afterwards, he rushed to his delivery just as the batter intervened, lighting the heater next to him.
However, not everyone is as crazy as Scherzer, and Manoa considers showing a little mercy. The 25-year-old pitcher revealed how he might approach the pitching timer after his start against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
“I feel like there is still a respect factor,” Manoa said. “[Twins hitter] Tyler White blew his timeouts on both beats and I could have pulled Scherzer on him, but… I think he needed to use those timeouts because I was working really fast and he didn’t have a chance to think.”
For Manoa, there is a collectivity in baseball that makes him think twice before beating the system.
“At the end of the day, we are all together,” he said. “We’re trying to win ball games, but I don’t want someone to carry the field if they don’t even know it’s going to happen. The kids are trying to feed their families. I will maintain this level of respect as much as I can.” “
It’s a slippery slope, and Manoa will overcome it during the season. Remember, however, that he is also a fierce competitor.
“If there’s a tough game and I need to sneak into a slider or something quickly, yes, I could,” said the right-hander. “But for the most part, [I’ll] try to maintain a level of respect and just use the clock to your advantage whenever I can. Whenever the referee wants to call a third strike, if he’s not ready in the box, I take it.”
There are a lot of variables in this equation besides the fact that this is spring training and the players are still adapting. But this brief trial period made one thing clear: the era of pitch hours has arrived, and the chaos is just beginning.