Speeding Up The Baseball Game

You can be forgiven for believing that the only thing more common on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast than the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are the words of Dan Shulman informing viewers that they “can find Sports Center on ESPN2.” So far this season, only one Sunday Night game has been completed before 11:00 PM.

For as long as I’ve watched baseball there have been people complaining about the length of games. For the most part, I enjoy the lazy pace at which a game of baseball is played, but I certainly understand the disdain for lengthy matches. Anyone who’s ever suffered through a Steve Trachsel start can relate, but what can really be done about it?

Inserting a pitch clock or forcing batters to stay in the box once they’ve stepped in it both seem like measures that would be too harsh, adding an element to the game that would change its makeup too much. Not to mention that it would lead to massive loopholes that might see pitchers and hitters take longer to step on the rubber or enter the batter’s box.

I came across an interesting idea this afternoon from NASCAR, of all places. ESPN announced today that the network will use split screens during broadcasts of the ten races that comprise NASCAR’s championship series to show commercials without forcing its audience to miss any action.

Why can’t something similar be done in baseball?

Currently, regular nine inning games have between 16 and 17 television commercial breaks that last between two minutes and five seconds for regional broadcasts and two minutes and twenty-five seconds for national broadcasts.

That time is normally reserved for players to change positions between offense and defense and hopefully allow the pitchers and fielders a chance to warm up after half an inning of sitting on the bench, but surely it doesn’t take an entire two minutes plus to do this. If the time for this was cut in half, would anyone complain?

Broadcasters could still show two commercials between innings and use split screens to air the two or three other advertisements that would normally be shown at that time during mound conferences, breaks in play and other lulls in the action. Assuming that viewers would be less likely to change the channel or walk away from a television set during a two minute + break versus a one minute break or an in-game ad placement, wouldn’t this work out even better for advertisers?

The modern dugout is a spacious place and I’m sure that any hitter at the plate with two out would forgive teammates for stretching out their arms off to the side, just as they forgive catchers for putting on some of their pads when they’re not due up.

Through stricter time management between innings, 15 to 20 minutes could be shaved off the total length of a game without interrupting or enforcing the flow. And that to me is the most important part of any changes to the rules that are enacted to speed up the game, it can’t mess with the seemingly natural flow to a baseball game.

Oh, and totally ditch the seventh inning stretch. If I wanted a workout, I’d join a gym.

Comments (13)

  1. How about slowing down the game by instituting a replay system. It might sound counter-intuitive, but how much time is saved in tennis because a player can’t argue with the video monitor? I think managers coming out and protesting just adds tiresome minutes to a game.

    Also, while I don’t necessarily agree with a pitch clock, I think there should be a limit to the time a pitcher can be in the set without pitching ere a ball is called. Maybe five seconds, or so. Not enough for it to have an impact on the game, but enough to make Jason Frasor throw it before sunset.

  2. I believe TSN did the same thing a few years back during the World Cup or Euro, in using a split screen during game play for commercials.

  3. why not just add sponsor badges to jerseys and cut out adverstiments all together..

    Everyone here has a Canada Spangler cup jersey in their closet as proof that I am right

  4. I need time to pee!

  5. I only want one break – the visiting team bats until they get 27 outs, and then the home team bats until they get 27 outs or scores more runs than the visitors. Also, a walk will take five balls, and there will be an extra man in the outfield to prevent all those time-consuming doubles.

  6. I DVR games and start watching them a half hour after the first pitch. That way I can fast-forward through commercial breaks. The only commercial I have to watch is that stupid home hardware lawn care one that comes on between batters (hate that). So this idea is a terrible threat to my very beloved way of baseball watching. Please no!

  7. I wouldn’t mind a pitch clock akin to a shot clock in Basketball but at 5 sec it would be problematic to use and reset all the time. Look at the problems they have in basketball and football with those things.

    What about a 5 sec that is counted by umpire like 5 sec defensive violation in basketball? If 5 sec passes by umpire count then he calls automatic ball. I think it is a little more organic that way..fits better with baseball.

  8. This is a pretty good idea. While watching the game last night, I was really distracted with those homehardware ads that they were playing between at bats. Really took away from the flow of the game.

  9. There is a rule on how long a pitcher can hold the ball. It’s just never enforced. The umps have better things to do than count to 20 just because Jason Frasor is on the mound.

    I’m a little confused as to what you’re suggesting exactly…networks already work in mid-inning commercials. Personally, I like the idea of regular two-minute intervals when I know there won’t be any action on the field and can channel-surf/do whatever more than being forced to watch running ads during a key moment in the game. It’s one of the nice things about baseball that the commercial breaks are natural game breaks as well.

  10. I still think Bud Selig looks like he’s trying to poop a ninja star in that picture.

  11. Biggest delay in the game are the warmup pitches from the mound between innings and on pitching changes. I’ve never heard a pitcher’s opinion but I would be happy to see this warmup removed and forced to be done from the bullpen.

    There would be a problem in the NL because pitchers bat. Solution is to use DH everywhere!

  12. I don’t understand why people are so against the idea of baseball having a clock. Baseball USED to have a clock…it was called the sun. The biggest time wasters in my opinion are endless throws over to first when a runner is on and multiple relief pitcher changes in an inning. The first one would be easy to limit; allow something like 2 throws over to first per inning for free and then any other toss over there is called a ball. You can still do it but there’s a small penalty for doing so. It would speed up the game and increase base stealing slightly which is good. What’s the downside?

  13. BRAD!
    I think thats the best idea of them all. It would add an extra element of strategy to stealing bases. The base runner will be trying to make the pitcher throw over twice to get the opposing team into the penalty, Increasing the chances of being thrown out, adding more excitment and speeding the game up! I

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