Pitch Clock Observations

Last night was the first IronPigs’ game that used the new pitch clocks, designed to “speed up the game.”

I got a good look at the clocks on Monday.

Pitch clock on the 'Pigs dugout.  Photo: NoiseNation Dan

Pitch clock on the ‘Pigs dugout. Photo: NoiseNation Dan

There are clocks on each dugout and one just to the right of the batter’s eye in center field. There was some talk about the batter being distracted by this clock. It is bright and nearly a part of the dark dull area that is required to be distraction free. The clock is turned off completely when the pitch comes to the “set” position so you could say that it isn’t technically a distraction, but the lights in the clock being on then turning off could be just enough of a blink to throw a batter’s all so important timing off. Especially so in the case of left handed pitchers where the ball would be coming from the near area where the clock resides in the batter’s view.

Last night I got a good look at the operations of the clocks themselves.

Pitch clock machine.

Pitch clock machine.

The above photo shows the Pitch clock machine. It’s not real exciting to look at but the operations were intense. There was an attached cable with remote that the operator used to start, stop and reset the clock using a laminated 5-6 page document as guidelines. Not that he needed it. The operator last night knew his stuff inside and out.

Speaking of the operators… apparently there are three operators who have been hired specifically for this task.

Three operators, three buttons and one switch. Granted, only one operator per game but don’t think this is an easy job. The clock operator is on task 100% of the time. Starting with the 60 minute to game time start clock to each pitch, each foul ball, each time the pitcher steps onto the dirt circle, each time that time outs are called, each time a new pitcher comes into the game, each time an inning end or begins. I’m talking no chatting, no food, no watching of old Bugs Bunny cartoons on youtube. The operator’s only interaction with anyone during the entire game is if the home plate umpire raises his right hand and spins it in the classic “home run” motion. That’s right folks, the home run signal now has a new meaning.. Reset the clock!

Generally, when a new batter steps up, the clock is on the pitcher, starting when he steps onto the dirt circle around the mound. Subsequent pitches move to the batter being set and ready. There are a bunch of scenarios that could change that as well.

It was pretty interesting at first. Each time the start and stop switch is moved, it clicks loudly. Each time it is reset it beeps loudly. Other than the intense thousand yard stare of the operator, there wasn’t much else to it.

The game seemed to move along nicely throughout the night. Of course, it’s cold out there so players tend to move faster to get on/off the field and back to the dugout heaters. That may change when there’s nicer weather.

One thing I did take note of was that relief pitchers were the only times that the pitch clock wound past a few seconds. Kicking dirt, walking around, pacing, fixing the mound a bit, cleaning dirt out of their cleats. Stuff like that ate up time more so than the starting pitchers.

Really not that bad at all.


Categories: Lehigh Valley IronPigs

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8 replies

  1. I will wait until I see it myself, but I just don’t like the whole idea. It was not necessary. They could’ve tried less obtrusive changes to improve the game pace (not that I believe there is a problem with the pace of the games).

    • Yeah, it doesn’t seem necessary at all. If anything it just adds complexity to enforce rules already in place and provides an additional distraction for a home plate umpire who needs to be concentrating on making accurate calls.

  2. As a fan, i found the clocks unnecessary, annoying and distracting. First of all, I don’t need a reminder that I have to freeze my butt off for another 50 minutes before the game starts! I found, also, that I was looking at that clock too much, and missing details of the game because of it. But more importantly, it was totally unnecessary — as you said, probably because of the cold weather, but I suspect it won’t make much difference in July, either. The only pitcher who seemed to use more than 2 or 3 seconds of the clock was Phillippe Aumont, who seemed unfazed by the 41-degree temperature.

    IronPigs’ games have never gone too long because pitchers fiddle around or batters step out of the box too often. Sure, they go long when a game goes into extra innings, but that’s to be expected. If the MLB powers that be were really serious about speeding up games, they’d have put the clocks in Major League ballparks instead. If there’s a problem with the pace of the game, that’s where it is.

  3. SECTV tried to tack the pitchers’ clock onto their “bug box” graphic, but after a few innings, even they thought it didn’t mean much… and no need to look at it IN the park at the expense of something else.

  4. I made it to my first game on Saturday night. I hate the clocks. I guess they aren’t enforcing them until May, but I just don’t see any value. It looks like 20 seconds is more than enough time for the pitchers. So, again, what’s the point? And, the 2:25 between innings seems a good minute or so shorter than the time they took before. The “entertainment” between innings was definitely curtailed and rushed. I was surprised they ran the pork race. The video of the pork racers before they enter the park was shorter than previous years, and the poor racers were high-tailing it in from the left field gate – no time for lolly-gagging. And, the Dancing Dirt Dudes did their “thing” for all of about 17 seconds. I mean, why bother, at this point.

    The clocks are unnecessary and annoying. They inject a feeling that the game is being rushed along…for no good reason. And, I’d guess Service Electric is losing money on the commercial breaks, as they are definitely having to come back to the game sooner.

    I’d love to see these clocks removed by the summer!!!

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