Washington Nationals: How a pitch clock will affect the staff

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PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 08: A clock counts down time between innings during the spring training game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium on March 8, 2015 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 08: A clock counts down time between innings during the spring training game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium on March 8, 2015 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals boast one of the league’s best pitching staffs, but will they be affected by the implementation of a pitch clock?

In each of their best seasons, the Washington Nationals have been built on strong pitching. This should remain true in 2018, but there could be a change in their pitching style due to the implementation of a pitch clock.

Ever since Rob Manfred became commissioner, there has been a concerted effort to speed up the game. The average game time in 2017 was three hours and eight minutes, which Manfred considers to be too long.

In an effort to bring this down a bit, MLB plans to implement a pitch clock and stricter rules on mound visits beginning in 2018.  Pitch clocks have previously been experimented with, mostly in winter leagues and the minors, but they will make their major league debut in 2018.

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As things currently stand, there will be a 20-second pitch clock that begins when the pitcher gets the ball on the mound. This may seem a little too fast, but pitchers can restart the clock by stepping off the rubber.

So how will this affect the Nats? Well, it will certainly be an adjustment. According to FanGraphs, Gio Gonzalez was the quickest Nats starter, averaging 21.9 seconds between pitches. Even Gonzalez, the Nats’ quickest starter, will need to adjust to the pitch clock.

The Nats’ other three qualified starting pitchers, Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, were among the slowest starters in the league. Of the 58 qualified starters, Roark ranked 36th, Scherzer ranked 45th, and Strasburg ranked 48th.

Obviously, the Nats have some adjusting to do. Fortunately, Derek Lilliquist is the perfect man to lead them through the adjustment period.

Last year, Lilliquist’s Cardinals accounted for three of baseball’s five quickest starting pitchers. Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Mike Leake all ranked among the quickest pitchers in the league, which can partially be attributed to Lilliquist.

Two of the things that Lilliquist emphasizes most are pitching quickly and inducing ground balls, which will both benefit the Nats’ pitching staff.

Next: Could the Nats sign J.D. Martinez?

The Nats’ pitchers certainly have some adjusting to do, but it can be a seamless transition under Lilliquist’s tutelage. The game will be a bit different, but the Nats should once again boast an elite pitching staff.

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