Experimenting with a pitch clock in the AFL

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Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball uses the six-team Arizona Fall League (AFL) each year as a sort of a testing lab for potential rule changes to the game. Last year, they tested out video reviews and it was such a success in the AFL that the rule was adopted by the MLB in 2014. This year they are going to try a new rule in hopes of speeding up the pace of the game.  In their attempt to accomplish this, they are implementing a pitch clock.

The length of a baseball game is what some people find unappealing. Now with a 20-second pitch clock in place, the pitchers in the AFL have 20 seconds to pitch the ball and if they are unable to pitch it before then , the home plate umpire calls an automatic ball.

This clock is only used in the Salt River Rafters’s ballpark. And it is located in five different areas of the ballpark, including next to both dugouts.

While some baseball enthusiasts may not like this, there is no doubt that it does speed the game up. In 2013, MLB games were taking, on average, two hours and 51 minutes to complete. This is how long each of the first three AFL games took when the pitch clock was implemented.

  • Game 1: 2:14
  • Game 2: 2:28
  • Game 3: 3:12 (11 innings)

In the other AFL ballparks, there are other rules being tested out in hopes of speeding up “America’s game.”

Batters are required to keep one foot inside the batter’s box at all times when they are up to bat, unless they foul the ball off. Teams are only allowed three “time out” conferences per game including meetings between pitchers and coaches, pitchers and catchers, and pitchers and batters. Also, when a pitcher wants to intentionally walk a batter, the batter will automatically take first base instead of having to wait for all four balls to be thrown.

The idea of making games shorter is appealing to some, yet to most baseball traditionalists these rules will change the entire complexion of the game.

Time will tell…