Progress being made in labor negotiations; deal could be done this week

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Jayson Stark and others are hearing this afternoon that some serious progress has been made in labor negotiations over the new collective bargaining agreement. There’s a decent chance that a deal could be done this week, in fact, though Stark has other sources telling him that’s a 50/50 proposition.

Of course, my counterparts at ProBasketballTalk would probably kill for 50/50 all season, let alone this week, so let us not be pessimistic.

The holdup — which is no surprise if you’ve read our stuff on the CBA for the past couple of years — is the owners’ insistence on hard slotting for draft picks.  The progress seems to be coming in the from of some mechanism other than a hard draftee bonus cap that nonetheless depresses signing bonuses.

All of which seems strange to me as a sticking point. I mean, I know why the union is holding firm: it’s a principle thing on never allowing salary caps of any kind anywhere.  The owners, though? Draftee bonuses get tons of headlines but they represent such a small fraction of overall payroll. Like a really, really small amount. The top pick gets what a slightly above average veteran second baseman gets over a couple of years. Seems like a strange place to make a stand.

But it doesn’t sound like the hardest stand, and it seems like labor peace is close at hand.

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%.