The pros and cons of moving the Astros to the AL

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The realignment talk of a couple of months ago has largely died down and it isn’t likely to be part of the new collective bargaining agreement this winter, but Zach Levine reports that it’s still being discussed, with the Astros the most likely candidate for shuffling.

Of particular interest is Levine’s breakdown of the pros and cons of all of the potential moves. Or, at the very least, the potential moves which have been floated in recent months, including Astros-to-the-AL, Astros-to-the-NL West and some other team like the Diamondbacks to the AL and doing nothing.  It’s a pretty thorough handling of it all.

Most of the drawbacks mentioned, though, are sort of soft drawbacks. As in, I know that people get worked up about them, but they’re merely hangups, not concrete obstacles. Stuff like rivalry implications (do we really care?) and constant interleague play (again, do we really care?).

It’s a back burner issue now, but it will bubble up again sometime in the next few months, so arm yourself with knowledge now.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.