Gammons: Baseball needs to make dramatic changes to pick up pace; relievers must face 3 batters

Peter Gammons, writing at his site, rolls out some interesting statistics and possible solutions for the slow-play issue in baseball.

Gammons bemoans the numerous pitching changes that not only bog down a game, but also take the bats out of the hands of big left-handed hitters:

“It is ridiculous that impact lefthanded hitters like Joey Votto, David Ortiz, Shin-Soo Choo, Chase Utley and Anthony Rizzo will almost never face a righthanded pitcher from the seventh inning on,” says one National League GM. “Can’t we see some great hitters hit with games on the line? This whole matchups thing gets carried away, but everyone has two or three Randy Choates to throw at a Votto.”

Experienced managers howl in laughter and advise that MLB post orthopedic surgeons’ phone numbers in every clubhouse when the matchup computers get overloaded in the third or fourth innings of games and their managers are forced to be warming up right and lefthanders in the early innings. Pace of game? Is it thrilling to see five or six pitching changes a game? In 1972, a team used an average of 2.94 relievers per game. In 1992, 4.29. Now it’s 5.96.

Gammon’s solutions:

My suggestion is to limit rosters to 11 pitchers, which would open rosters to a hitter who could act as third catcher in extra-inning games, or a Tony Phillips kind of versatile performer. They could require that a reliever either finish an inning or have to face three hitters, but this way relievers would be required to have to retire batters from both sides of the plate and be groomed not to throw 3-5 pitches, but have to be used to 4-6 outs. Starters should pitch seven innings. Relievers should be able to get six outs on both sides of the plate.

That would limit matchups. Limit stalling while the next Randy Choate heats up to face Utley or Votto. Pace of game? Limit the number of combined visits by managers and pitching coaches to two a game—between them.

Gammons concludes:

It’s worth at least a few new and creative ideas. How many 13 and 15 year olds are beginning to ask, “Is this becoming The Deadball Era, or is this the Polar Vortex?” Come the All-Star Break, it’s worth studying.

I’m for anything that picks up the pace.

4 thoughts on “Gammons: Baseball needs to make dramatic changes to pick up pace; relievers must face 3 batters

  1. Another suggestion I have heard to increase the pace of the game:

    If a reliever pitches to only one batter and is then removed, the new pitcher must pitch to the batter immediately without warmup pitches.

  2. I like the idea of a relief pitcher having to face at least three hitters. Specialization is ruining the game. If you are a pitcher in the big leagues you should be able to get hitters out regardless of if they hit left handed, right handed, between their legs or backwards!

  3. It goes way beyond the lefty/righty matchup. It’s also Baseball sneaking in an extra 30-second spot in between innings–that’s at least nine extra minutes right there. But it’s also that hitters are working counts deep, an strikeouts are cheap. There needs to be something that encourages hitters to put the ball into play, which would lead to shorter plate appearances and shorter games.

  4. Baseball’s problems begin and end with the strike zone. If umpires actually enforced it consistently, games would move along more quickly, pitchers’ arms would be spared and fans would be able to stay awake longer.
    This emphasis on taking umpteen pitches and “grinding out” at bats is killing the pace of the game. Of all the possible outcomes in an at-bat, the base on balls is the least exciting. Call the strike zone — armpits to knees — and hitters will have to come up swinging.
    Scrap instant replay for everything else and install a “PitchTrax” sort of system to call balls and strikes. That’s where the technology is most needed.

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