One of the complaints some have against baseball is that the game is just too slow. It was with that thought in mind that Major League Baseball implemented a few rules that would speed up the process. Recent rule changes have included allowing managers to signal for an intentional walk as opposed to having a pitcher throw four pitches out of the zone. This year, among other things, mound visits have been limited, pitching changes are timed and time between innings has been shortened. As we reach the end of the second month of the season the question is, are these changes working?
Major League Baseball says the game times are down from three hours and five minutes per contest to a flat three hours. Five minutes may not seem like it would make much of a difference but there may be an element of “perception is reality” at play.
You see, mound visits, from both catchers and managers, are down significantly. Next to repeated throws to first base to keep a runner on base (from a visiting pitcher, of course) nothing seems to waste time and frustrate fans more than mound visits. Why? Because we have NO idea what they are talking about. Oh sure, we can speculate that they are discussing the next pitch or batter, but they could be talking about dinner or how 15 minutes can save you money on auto insurance. In fact, mound visits are so despised, they are the only time most fans appreciate seeing an umpire step in.
The point is, it may not just be about the length of the game, but the perception of how it is played out. Fans aren’t interested in mound visits. When MLB made the change to limit mound visits, it saved minimal time, but it eliminated another thorn in the side of fans. It gave them one little less thing to complain about. If baseball continues to think about the fan experience and not just “minutes”, it will continue to age to perfection.