Initial Thoughts On The Newly Integrated Pitch Clock
Major League Baseball is introducing a number of different changes for the 2023 MLB Season. One that has already made an impact in spring training games is the pitch clock.
It isn't a secret Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball are experimenting different changes to the game of baseball, with the main goal in mind being to decrease the total time of each game. This year, there are three main changes being introduced; the pitch clock, shift restrictions, and larger bases. After over a week of spring training games, the pitch clock seems to be the most influential and therefore most debated change, and to it's credit, it has been working.
We'll have to wait to see how it plays in the regular season and how the game adapts, but my initial thoughts and reactions so far have led me to being anti-pitch clock. This conclusion mainly derives from the fact that the pitch clock honestly doesn't really feel like natural baseball. It feels rushed, and while that is basically the intent of it, it doesn't feel like baseball. The time of games hasn't been the only effect of the clock, and it might not even be the biggest.
The pitch clock creates the possibility that a hitter and/or pitcher can fall behind in the count before the at bat has even started. While some players will work against putting themselves behind, others seem to have just accepted starting counts down 0-1. Manny Machado was the first batter to fall victim to a pitch clock violation, and after the game said he "might be down 0-1 a lot this year." Not only can an at bat start 0-1 or 1-0, but a pitch clock violation can happen at any time during a plate appearance. There has already been at bats ending on violations too, mainly from hitters striking out due to not getting in the box on time.
On the other hand, some players have tried to work with the new pitch clock to develop new rhythms. Who else to do such a thing besides the mad man himself, Max Scherzer. In his spring training start on March 3 against the Nats, Max worked on his timing. He was mixing up the rate he worked and how quickly he was delivering to the plate. At times he would move fast and throw a pitch within just a few seconds of getting the ball, and at others he would hold at the stretch, either making the hitter take their lone timeout or make them uncomfortable. The Nationals wound up scoring eight runs that inning, seven of which were charged to Scherzer. None of those runs were earned, as his defense committed two errors behind him, but he wasn't helping himself either. Max was charged for a balk and a pitch clock violation, the latter of which ended up voiding what would have been an inning ending double play. It's safe to say Max's attempt to use the pitch clock to his advantage didn't work out too well.
And then there has been moments like this, which just is not baseball and should not be the direction we are headed.
All in all, the pitch clock has made its presence very known. It already has and will continue to change the game. It's way too early to ditch the pitch clock completely, but so far it's not off to a hot start in my opinion. While I understand wanting to speed up the game somehow, I think this is taking it to an unnecessary level. Certain parts of the changes with the pitch clock are fine, such as limiting the amount of times a batter can step out or how many times a pitcher can throw over or step off in an at bat. Extending onto that with the pitch clock adds a level of change makes the game feel artificial at times. When I go to a game, I'm in no rush to leave. Going to a game is a place to relax and just live in the sport of baseball, so sped up games just shortens that experience, something many baseball fans won't want, even if they are watching the 2023 Nationals. To be blunt, this change feels like it was forced as a measure to appease non-baseball fans who complain about the length of the game. While there may be ways to speed games up in a justifiable manner, the pitch clock isn't off the hottest start in proving it's worth in that role.