The pitch clock was a topic at the All-Star Game. But how will it operate in the postseason?

12 July 2023

National League All-Star starting pitcher Zac Gallen sized up the difference the pitch clock has made for him.

“Last year we didn’t have the pitch clock, I didn’t make the All-Star Game,” the Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander said Monday with a smile. “This year there was a pitch clock and I made the All-Star Game. So maybe it helped.”

The line drew laughs from the news conference attendees.

“It was definitely an adjustment period,” Gallen continued. “Spring training was, for sure. It was tough. But I think just like everybody else, we just adapt. There’s certain parts where you can kind of game it and also parts where you have to think clearly, maybe take a mound visit in a spot where you’re not expecting to.

“I’m still figuring it out. But the (game) times are down dramatically. I think it’s a little bit more enjoyable for the fans. Yeah, so I don’t mind it.”

While many of the game’s best gathered Tuesday at T-Mobile Park for the All-Star Game, earlier in the day there was an eye toward thepotential impact of the rules changes on the postseason. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark discussed what’s worked and what October might look like when they met separately with members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Even before Manfred spoke, associates with MLB handed out sheets touting the impact of rules changes such as:

The addition of a pitch clock (the average time of game is 2:38, compared to 3:04 last season and 3:10 in 2021);
Disengagements/larger bases (the average stolen base attempts per game were 1.8 — the highest since 2012 — with a success rate of 79.4%);
And defensive shift changes (the batting average on balls put in play has increased 7 points from last season).

“It’s about action and athleticism in my view,” Manfred said.

He thanked the players: “I understand how important routines are to players. And when you say to a professional athlete, ‘You’ve done this a certain way your whole life and we’re going to change it because we’re going to have a rule change,’ that’s a big deal. Our players have adjusted quickly and effectively. And equally important, on the whole have stayed really positive about the rule changes.”

Clark made clear that “nobody likes playing three-and-half or four-hour games.”

However — and with baseball there’s often a however or a but — Clark said there is some concern when it comes to the pitch clock, and the games in September and October.

“I don’t believe there is any player or too many folks that want to have a new rule dramatically affect the game in a pennant chase or in the playoffs,” Clark said. “The players believe that there are some adjustments that would be beneficial in the grand scheme of things so we’re not having a conversation about a new rule.”

The clock is currently set at 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners.

Clark said he doesn’t think “an extra few seconds here and there is going to create a three-and-half, four-hour game” and that it will allow players to take a deep breath.

“When you’re trained as a pitcher or hitter to be able to execute and slow things down, that’s actually a big difference when adding the extra two-three seconds,” Clark said.

Clark said the “lines of communication are open” with MLB.

Manfred said he remains “open-minded” on the topic, adding that he generally likes “the idea of playing everything under a single set of rules.”

“We don’t want a postseason game decided on a violation, we had the spring training game (where it occurred), but other than that we haven’t had a game decided that way,” Manfred said. “I understand it’s a possibility. In terms of doing something in the postseason, making an alteration, we’re going to continue to talk to the players. I’m sure I’m going to have some conversations with Tony Clark about this issue.

“I do — and there are exceptions to this including the extra-inning rule — in general I think you ought to play the postseason the way you play the regular season. There are exceptions. But in general. And we are comfortable with the way the clock and the violations, particularly late in the game and in high-leverage situations, have been managed.”

Time is ticking on what comes next.


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