Commissioner Rob Manfred continues on his mission to improve the pace of play in baseball. Having already added a new intentional walk rule, Manfred now has his sights set on pitching changes.
Per Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, Manfred feels like relievers “slow the game down” and “rob action out of the end of the game.” He suggested a potential rule change that would limit the amount of pitchers a manager can use in one inning.
There’s no doubt that the plethora of pitching changes late in games causes the pace of the game to slow to a crawl, not unlike the end of a basketball game where the trailing team fouls the leading team repeatedly, causing 30 regulation seconds to stretch into 15 minutes in real time. The problem, though, is limiting strategy to make the game to a little quicker. Is that a trade-off most people — players, managers, fans — would be willing to make?
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.