The age of the MLB pitch clock may be upon us soon. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Tuesday (subscription required and recommended) that MLB and the players’ union are working towards an agreement that could bring such a rule change to the major-league level as soon as next season. However, it’s also possible that the pitch clock could be introduced gradually over several years; the conversation is still in its early stages.
The potential for pitch clocks has been the subject of much controversy over the past couple of season, and began receiving test runs in Double-A as early as the 2015 season. The main reason is simple: the pace of play in baseball feels slow to younger generations, and Rob Manfred and his office are making wide-ranging attempts to take minutes off the game. We’ve seen small attempts towards this goal already, such as pitchers no longer needing to throw a baseball in order to intentionally walk a batter.
There are mixed feelings among players about the idea of a pitch clock. Jon Lester, for instance, has vocalized his distaste for years, complaining that it would take the “beauty” and “cat and mouse game” away from the pitcher-hitter battle (as ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wrote a couple of years back). However, many pitchers at the minor-league levels said they found the pitch clocks did not impact them negatively. Regardless, Rosenthal writes that Manfred seems “convinced” that such changes are necessary, which makes it seem as though the introduction of pitch clocks is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. The piece is a great read, providing insight into the nuances and challenges of the discussion at hand.
More from around the majors…
- Two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Otani’s potential earnings are severely by MLB’s international signing restrictions. But could teams circumvent those regulations by promising an early-career extension as part of their original signing agreement? Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron explores the hypothetical scenarios, suggesting that after one full year of service time — assuming Otani lives up to the hype — it’d be tough for the league to intervene with a contract extension so long as it carried some historical precedent. (Clubs do, after all, almost always attempt to secure young players on long-term deals.) A team would need to maintain plausible deniability, but the promise of an early-career extension could be a powerful incentive for Otani to join their club. With the ability to throw 100 mph and smack 400-foot homers, Ohtani could easily be a franchise icon, so it’s possible that some teams are already working on their “second offers” to him.
- While finding exact ways to quantify defensive value remains a difficult task, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello introduces a new metric intended to do just that by leveraging Statcast’s catch probability data: Outs Above Average (OAA). Twins center fielder Byron Buxton leads Major League outfielders in OAA, which is a counting metric that assigns value based on every catch made or not made over the course of a season. Petriello explains the metric in detail, but in essence, OAA gives credit for every catch made (+0.01 for making a catch to which Statcast assigns a 99% catch probability, +0.75 for making a catch with a 25% catch probability, and so forth) while also subtracting credit for catches not made (-0.01 for not making the 99% catch, -0.25 for not making the 25% catch, -0.75 for not making a 75% catch, etc.). Buxton has been 23 “outs above average” this season, while Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte checks in second (+17) and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier is tied for fifth (+11) despite missing two months.
- Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote an interesting piece about how Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball has helped aspiring and current big league pitchers increase their velocity, including Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer and Marlins righty Dan Straily. Driveline’s training center reportedly has young pitchers throwing with weighted balls, and captures their biomechanics with high-speed cameras. The article is a long read but well worth the time.