NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Pitch clocks have shortened games in the minor leagues by an average of 29 minutes this year as the season nears the halfway point.
Minor league games with a pitch clock averaged 2 hours, 35 minutes, down from 3:04 last year to June 14, in an experiment that Major League Baseball is preparing for possible adoption in 2023.
However, robot umpires call ball and strike doesn’t come close to a big league hype.
Triple-A is using a pitch clock of 14 seconds with no runners and a pitch clock of 19 seconds with runners, while the lower tiers are using 14/18. Experiments are also underway with limits on the use of defensive innings and large bases.
A competition committee consisting of six management officers, four union representatives and an umpire was established in the new collective bargaining agreement, and is empowered to make changes to on-field rules with 45 days’ notice. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the committee would meet for the first time next week.
“We are encouraged by the results of the minor leagues,” Manfred said after the owners’ meeting on Thursday. “We’ve said over the years that little leagues provide us with a valuable opportunity to experiment, learn and make sure we understand how something will work if we deploy it on the field. I went downstairs and clocked the pitch. Saw the game. There was some hype around it. It was really positive. The game really went along.”
The major league batting average this season is .242, ending at .231 in April and rising to .245 in the month of May. Last season’s final average was .244, the lowest since 1972.
The home run average per game is 1.05 per team, down from 1.22 last year.
“What has happened to our crime is a predictable pattern,” Manfred said. “The offense is always challenged in April, and as the weather warms up, the offense gets better. I think that’s what we’re seeing there.”
In Double-A and Class A, each defensive team must have at least four players on the infield, including two on either side of second base. The minor league base has been increased from 15 to 18 inches square.
Manfred wants the decisions made before spring training next February to give teams enough time to prepare.
“The best form of baseball is a form of the game where there are more balls in play, there is action to keep the fans engaged,” he said. “People define offense in different ways – home runs, whatever. I don’t focus on any particular form, not on any particular result in a person’s batting. It’s the measure of action in the game. The overall level is what we’re most interested in.”
MLB is experimenting with automatic ball-strike systems, as robot umps, in the Triple-A and Low-A Southeast leagues after trials in the Atlantic League in 2019 and in the Southeast and Arizona Fall Leagues last year. A challenge system is being tried in Low-A in which a pitcher, batsman or catcher can appeal the decision of the human umpire for a computer call.
“I don’t see ABS as a competition committee issue for this year. That’s best I can tell you,” Manfred said. “There are tough issues around the strike zone that affect results on the field, and We need to make sure we understand them before jumping off that bridge.”
More Associated Press MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports