By Jayson Stark, Patrick Mooney, Nick Groke, C. Trent Rosecrans, and Andy McCullough
MLB’s 15 Opening Day games averaged 2 hours, 45 minutes Thursday, 26 minutes less than last year’s average, signaling a successful start to the regular season for the shot clock introduced to shorten games as part of the new league rule changes. Here’s what you need to know:
- On Opening Day last year, with seven games played, he averaged 3 hours and 11 minutes.
- None of the first seven games completed on Thursday was as long as the average Opening Day game time last year.
- Only two of the first seven games completed this year were longer than last year’s shortest Opening Day game. The shortest of last year’s Opening Day games was 2 hours, 49 minutes.
- Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman committed the first shot clock violation of the regular season, while Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was the first batter penalized for a shot clock violation Thursday.
Most notable numbers
On Thursday, one of two games in the first seven that lasted 2:49 or longer was a 10-9 Orioles win over the Red Sox that lasted 3 hours, 10 minutes.
The game Reds vs. Pirates lasted 3 hours and 2 minutes. The matchup had 15 walks and 26 strikeouts with neither team’s starter lasting more than five innings.
the athleticInstant analysis of:
How did the shot clock work?
By the end of spring training, it seemed like everyone had not only gotten used to the shot clock, but forgotten about it, except when celebrating an hour, 52-minute game like the Reds starter did, Graham Ashcraft, at the end. spring.
On Thursday, however, both the Pirates and Reds starters suffered shot clock violations and both plate appearances ended in home runs for the batter. Is that related? Probably not, but there are more signs of shakeups in the regular season than in the spring, where results don’t matter.
Ultimately though, even if the game felt like slog, especially with 15 walks and 26 strikeouts, the announced playing time was just 3:02, which a year ago would have been considered a game. fast. — rosacrans
I’m here to report that the clock works on the west coast as well. Take the game between the Padres and the Rockies. San Diego starter Blake Snell operated at his usual inefficient pace. He needed 24 pitches to complete the first inning. He had thrown 70 pitches through three. The reliever behind him wasn’t much better, in a 7-2 loss to Colorado. The score box would suggest a contest that fell behind at an awkward pace. And the game still ended in 2:56, 10 minutes less than the average game in 2022.
The other late games were just as light-hearted. The Mariners finished with a neat 3-0 victory over the Guardians in 2:14. The Athletics defeated the Angels, 2-1, in 2:30. The Dodgers crushed the Diamondbacks, 8-2, in just 2:35, and that was a game that featured five different Arizona pitchers and multiple mid-inning pitch changes.
It’s hard to argue with early results. Time will tell, pardon the phrase, about the long-term consequences of the clock. But the reduction of dead air cannot be questioned. — McCullough
What do the Opening Day schedules tell us about the impact of the clock?
Spring training games unfolded at a pace we hadn’t seen in over 40 years. Games averaged two hours and 35 minutes in the spring. — 26 minutes shorter than last spring and 31 minutes shorter than the average for last year’s regular season games.
No one in the sport thought that pace was sustainable this year once the season started, for all sorts of logical reasons. But 2:40? Maybe 2:45? There was real optimism that an average somewhere in that range was achievable. And the games on Thursday seemed to show it.
The first nine games of the day averaged exactly 2:45. Five was shorter than that. Only four were longer.
Even a 10-9 game in Boston — which featured 44 baserunners, 10 pitching changes, two pinch hitters, and two pinch runners — it lasted only 3:10. One year ago on Opening Day, a 3-1 Astros-Angels game — with only 18 base runners — prolonged for 3:15. And no game of the entire day was completed in 2:45.
So what did Thursday’s game times tell us? Shot clocks can bring their share of violations and unintended consequences. But do they work? Do they suck all the downtime from these games? Do they reduce game times to a manageable length? That is not even in doubt. — Rigid
what are they saying
Stroman committed the violation in the third inning of Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Brewers with Christian Yelich batting and no outs. The violation was called after Stroman turned to look at Brice Turang leading off second base. He worked around an eventual walk to Yelich after the automatic ball made it 2-2.
Stroman spent part of spring training pitching in a World Baseball Classic that did not have a shot clock, and acknowledged there were times when he felt “very rushed” on the mound.
“I don’t think people really realize that it just adds another layer of thinking,” Stroman said. “You have to be aware of the clock. You’re trying to worry about the pitch. You’re trying to worry about the guys on the base. You’re trying to worry about your grip. There’s so much going on right now.”
He allowed three walks and three hits while striking out eight. Stroman noted that he is a pitcher “who can come off the mound and breathe when I need to.”
“I don’t have the opportunity to do that anymore,” Stroman said. “Breathing is very important to align the body and get in the perfect position to throw the ball home. Like I said, I think it’s messing up a lot of guys’ pre-pitch routines, which can ultimately affect how they throw.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking on-air during the Rangers’ telecast Thursday, said the league will not “have its feet in stone” regarding the shot clock. Manfred said he hopes referees will exercise some discretion late in games to allow for slower, more tense moments. During spring training, managers and players around the league raised concerns that a game could end with a shot clock violation or in the middle of a situation where a close game becomes too rushed for the time being.
As Manfred spoke, play in Texas was halted for several minutes after Jacob deGrom’s PitchCom device malfunctioned.
In the Red Sox game against the Orioles, Devers came out of the batter’s box in the eighth inning and was unspotted eight seconds after coming back in, resulting in his violation. He struck out after the violation because he already had two strikes. Baltimore went on to win 10-9.
Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson was asked about the rules before practice Wednesday.
“Oh, I have a lot of ideas,” Swanson said. “I just don’t need any of them to get me in trouble. I definitely think there are some adjustments that can be made. But as I’ve said from the beginning, we have three options. One of them is just complaining about it all year long, which won’t do anyone any good. The second is to accept it and find ways to use it to our advantage. The third would be that no one plays, and I don’t think that’s going to happen either. So we have one option left, and that is to accept it and use it to our advantage and do the best we can to play this new brand of baseball.”
MLB introduced the shot clock in the spring, with the goal of optimizing fan entertainment. Pitchers have 20 seconds to start their pitching motions with runners on base and 15 seconds to do so with the bases empty. The umpires assess a ball for pitchers who do not start their motions before the clock expires and a strike for batters who are not in the box and “call the pitcher out” within eight seconds.
The commissioner’s office said in September that the implementation of a shot clock in the minor leagues last year reduced the average game time by 25 minutes.
(Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)