'I've Never Experienced Anything Like This' in MLB

Batting averages rise, game time drops as pitch clock, infield limits debut, along with bigger bases
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 11, 2023 9:01 AM CDT
'I've Never Experienced Anything Like This' in MLB
The pitch clock counts down as the Washington Nationals' Victor Robles waits in the on-deck circle in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday in Denver.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Major League Baseball's new rules designed to speed pace of play and encourage more action seem to be working through the season's first week and a half. Batting average is up 16 points, stolen bases have spiked 30%, and the average game time is down 31 minutes, on track to be the sport's lowest since 1984, per the AP. A pitch clock, larger bases, and limits on infield shifts were all implemented on opening day after testing in the minors and a dress rehearsal of sorts during this year's big league spring training. "I think they're good for the game," Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona said. "The goal was to not have them get in the way of how we play. That doesn't guarantee you're going to win or lose or play well or bad, but just not get in the way."

The league-wide batting average is .249, a rise from .233 during a comparable period at the start of last season, when cold and wet weather likely contributed to a pallid offensive start. Last year's average rose to .243 by year's end, the lowest since 1968. Right-handed batters have a .253 average, up from .236 at the start of last year, and lefty batting average is .245, up from .228. MLB, over objections from players, adopted a pitch clock of 15 seconds with no runners on base, and 20 seconds with runners. It also required two infielders to be on either side of second base, and all infielders to be within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber. Players supported increasing bases to 18-inch squares from 15-by-15, proposed as a safety measure.

Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is tied with 15 others for the major league lead with two pitch clock violations—both in the same game, one as a hitter and one as a pitcher. The New York Mets have the most of any team with 10. Two-thirds of pitch clock penalties have been imposed on pitchers. Clock violations were up slightly last week compared to opening weekend, but averaged less than one per game. Meanwhile, the average time of nine-inning games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes from 3:09 in the first 11 days of last year, when the final average was 3:04. The average was unchanged from the first four days and is on track to be the lowest since it was 2:35 in 1984. "I've never experienced anything like this," Colorado Rockies first baseman CJ Cron said. "It feels like there's always action going on."

(Read more MLB stories.)

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