We are just a few days into the start of Spring Training games for the upcoming 2023 MLB season, but the game has already taken on a vastly different look, for better or for worse.
Baseball has struggled in recent years with game times. It seemed to be routine for an AL East matchup on Sunday Night Baseball to push the four-hour mark, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that it was affecting interest in the game. It happened rather suddenly, as game time averages jumped from roughly 2.5 hours to 3+ hours in 2017 and never looked back. In 2022, the average game length was 3 hours and 7 minutes.
New MLB Clock Rule Is Working, But To What Avail?
2022 MLB Average Game Length: 3:07
MLB Spring Training Game Times, Saturday:
— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) February 26, 2023
In order to combat the problem, the MLB has implemented new rules for the 2023 season, most notably the pitch clock that has already affected the outcome of some of the pre-season games. Manny Machado was the first victim of the new rule on Friday, when he was called for an automatic strike for not being set in the batters’ box when the pitch clock hit 8 seconds. Cal Conley suffered the same fate in the game between the Braves and Red Sox, but this time it happened in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and two outs.
The new tweak to the game has been met with plenty of criticism, but when it comes to the problem that they are attempting to fix, it looks like they’ve been successful thus far. Of all of the Spring Training games played on Saturday morning and afternoon, every single one of them was shorter than the average 2022 game. Two games came within one minute, ending with 3:06 play times, but 14 of the 17 contests ended in under three hours.
Time of game for the Mets first three spring training games:
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) February 26, 2023
In looking at one specific case, the New York Mets have been especially efficient in their games. All three of their games have finished in under 2 hours and 35 minutes, which would be a blessing if they could carry it over into the regular season.
Of course, there will have to be some kind of medium found. The MLB can’t have games decided by clock rules, especially in the regular and post seasons, when the games hold actual importance. But if the system is working to solve the problem at hand, then they’ll have to find a way to work it into the game naturally without having it affect any results.