Cleat Geeks

Are There to Many Pitching Changes in Baseball?

MLB admitted to a certain extent that the game is to long, by implementing 3 new rules this year to try to speed up “pace of play.” My problem with the new rules is not that I do not like the new rules, but that MLB seemed to try to have only the hitters speed up the games and not the pitchers. The new rules are; batters are required to keep at least 1 foot in the box after each pitch (there are occasions where you can completely step out) players will also have a max of 2:25 for local games and 2:45 for nationally televised games to begin play following the end of each half inning.

In 1984 the average MLB game had 3.3 pitching changes. That number increased in 1994 to 4.7 per game. It increased again 10 years later in 2004 with the average per game at 5.5. Now, in 2014 that number increased once again to 6.0 pitching changes per game. I understand that the game has changed since 1984 but not to the point where the pitching changes per game almost double. In a Wall Street Journal a few years ago they simply looked at 3 random games on a given night and discovered the following; there was one catcher visit to the mound, for 52 seconds, there were three mound visits without a pitching change that averaged a minute and 19 seconds each and  there were five in-inning pitching changes (all including a mound visit, of course) that averaged 3:11 per pitching change. With these stats, I think you could easily shave 5-7 minutes off every baseball game if you would simply address this situation.

While the starters are in the game, to me the game moves at an acceptable pace. According to baseball-research.com the average starting pitcher pitches 5.98 innings. For sense of ease we will round this off and say 6 innings. And, to me the pace of the game seems to be acceptable when the starter is in the game for those 6 innings, but the pace seems to slow for the 7-9 innings. So each team needs to get 9 more outs to complete the game. I do not see a problem with instituting a rule that every pitcher brought into a game must face a minimum of 3 batters. Or say after the first pitcher used in an inning, there must be an out recorded by each pitcher thereafter before another pitching change can be made.

Using the same 10 year criteria as above, here are the stats for batters faced per relief appearance. In 1984 it was 6.94, in 1994 the number declined to 5.40 then in 2004 it continued to decrease to 4.85 and the pattern continued in 2014 to 4.28 batters faced per relief appearance. And I am not saying we even take the average of the last 30 years, I am saying we prevent that inning that just seems to drag on forever because there were 4 pitching changes to get 3 outs. smoltz

Here is a great quote from Hall of Fame pitcher turned MLB Network analyst John Smoltz, “I think if you’re in the big leagues you are the best of the best, you should be able to face 2 guys, 3 guys.” And for those of you screaming at me right now playing as though you are a manager and saying the manager should be allowed to bring in his “specialist.” The problem with that is now most teams carry an 8 player bullpen. That bullpen consists of 1 closer, 1 long relief guy and 6 specialist. You don’t want 4,5, or 6 different relief pitchers brought in for each team in the final 3 innings of a game.

In 2014 hitters batted .233 after the starter left the game. If the number of relief pitchers used was limited it would speed up the game, and it would increase the batting average of the hitters so that there would be more balls in play and therefore there would be more action in the late innings of the game. Baseball needs more comebacks, and more late inning rallys. It does not need more pitching changes, more ground balls more strikeouts and more visits to the mound. By limiting pitching changes you decrease the time of the games, you increase the action and as John Smoltz points out that will ultimately give us the best of the best.

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