20 Seconds to Pitch: The Live Lab Begins in Florida Today. A Rule in Progress

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WPCNR VIEW FROM THE UPPER DECK By “Bull” Allen. March 23, 2019:

Hello there everybody.  Bull Allen here standing on the green green grass of home: legendary Al Lang Field of Springs Past for the first game of the grapefruit league season  between the Cardinals and the Yankees, where the great pitching experiment begins today.

Of course the real Yankees are playing the Red Sox, but pitchers will be supposed to deliver each pitch within 20 seconds, as we wrote you about last week. However the “working” sports press did not explain the details of how the pitch clock will work, and what situations it will be in effect.

Since no one in the “working” sports press asked major league baseball, I asked John Bailey to check out what the rules were.

Mr. Bailey  called the Major League Baseball Communications Department, asking for details on how and when the 20 seconds-to-pitch rule would be enforced, or whether it was going to be in effect all the time in every situation. To their credit, they immediately responded to his email request

Bailey sent me  a statement from Michael Teevan,Vice President, Communications for  Major League Baseball that read as follows:

“We expect to have more detailed information on the plans for the pitch clock during spring training in the days ahead. I’ll let you know when we do.”

So yours truly will be watching closely, because there are a lot issues for a pitcher to take care of in those 20 seconds. Here are just a few:

  1. Does the 20 seconds start when a pitcher gets the ball back from the catcher? Or when he steps on the pitching rubber. (My guess is when he gets the ball back from the catcher.)
  2. Can the pitcher step off the rubber once he gets on it? (My guess is no—if he can he could violate the balk rule (moving to the plate then stopping).
  3. Does the pitcher get a fresh 20 seconds when he gets a base runner, or is the 20 seconds time limit to pitch not in effect.  This is important because with 20 seconds to pitch in effect, the pitcher can throw over to keep the runner close only once, and if he throws over twice, he will have to rush his pitch. It also means to the runner that once a pitcher throws, the base runner can take a huge lead and walk to second (a tremendous advantage for the runner). If the 20 seconds to pitch is waived after there are baserunners, then the pitcher maintains advantage over the runner. Also, if you keep the 20 seconds during runners on situations, the defense is strengthened by the runner not having to be held on, but double plays will be reduced because runner at first gets bigger jump. This will mean a lot more runs, in my opinion. Innings will last longer. More blowouts will happen early.
  4. How will the pitch clock go off? A siren. A buzzer? Or is it umpire’s judgment. This will impair umpire’s judgment of the pitch he will not be set if watching the clock. Hence more messed up strike calls might happen. Or will the second base umpire or first base or third base umpire clockwatch, which could district the man in blue from a pickoff play.
  5. I suggest that a catcher may be directed to make more pickoff throws to first with runners on: to third, second, or first, to allow the pitcher to concentrate on his pitch in the 20 seconds. I guarantee that will prolong the innings. Trick plays, (sneak-ins behind the runner(s) may happen to curtail extensive leads (after a throw over).
  6. Can the catcher call time during any 20 second period to check signals, discuss pitches. If the catcher is not allowed to do that, it really gives advantage to the batter.
  7. Is a pitchout considered pitching the ball? A pitchout can be used to pickoff a runner taking an extend lead (after a pitcher throws over once during the 20 seconds). Protecting the vulnerability against the steal will increase pitchout activity and may inadvertently prolong the inning, not shorten it.

Just some thoughts that should be kept in mind while watching these spring games. As the pitch clock experiment begins.  Bull Allen getting ready to Join Red, Phil, Harry, Suzyn and John in the gondola and watch what happens.

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