It seems that everything Rob Manfred and the MLB try to do revolves around speeding up the game. I’m all for it. If you can naturally speed up the game without making any big changes to the way it’s played, count me in. But I still haven’t seen an option that presents this possibility. In fact, in some instances it almost feels like the more exciting a game is to the casual fan the slower it actually is.
I came to this realization a couple days ago watching Dan Jennings of the Chicago White Sox pitch in relief. Jennings came in with runners on base and slowed the pace of the game down so much that even I wanted to eliminate myself. He was working the runner on base really hard with pickoffs and by mixing up his timing to the plate. Normally, I love that battle in baseball because the pitcher is trying to compete with two players at once. But this was particularly annoying because it seemed like it would never end. And then it hit me: this is what usually happens when runners are on base.
The casual fan wants more hits, more dingers and more runners on base who are moving around to raise the excitement level. Yet, a pitcher who is good at his job is going to slow down the pace of the game to keep those baserunners guessing. This helps prevent stolen bases and also limits the secondary lead a runner can get after the pitch is thrown, allowing the defense to theoretically gain an advantage. So the more hits we get, the more the pace slows down.
Even Mark Buehrle, a pitcher who threw at one of the quickest paces we’ve seen, had to mix things up when he had runners on base. It helped that he had a fantastic pickoff move, but he still couldn’t simply grab the ball from the catcher, take the sign and throw like he would when in the wind-up. He had other things to pay attention to.
The average fan needs to decide what he or she wants out of baseball. Do we want the game to be quicker with shorter innings or do we want more action which ultimately leads to longer innings? The obsessive baseball asshole like myself is just as happy with a two hour pitching duel as he is in a four hour dinger-fest. But how does the MLB accommodate the average fan who wants to see 500 foot home runs and be home for before midnight so they aren’t dragging ass at work the next day? That’s a riddle baseball has yet to solve.