Joe Delessio of Sports on Earth has a neat article up. It’s about how the independent Atlantic League has, since the first of August, tweaked some rules in an effort to pick up the pace of games. They’ve done so in an effort to study it, really, not just as a gimmick. Among the tweaks: enforcing the rules about batters stepping out of the box and pitchers throwing the ball in a timely manner; just “calling” an intentional walk instead of throwing four pitches, limiting mound visits (and the time of said visits) and reducing pitchers’ warmup pitches.
None of these are radical changes — there’s no big pitch clock on the wall and no rules fundamental to how the game is played have been changed — but the results are, so far anyway, promising. About nine minutes have been shaved off the average game and far fewer games have exceeded three hours than typically did before the tweaks. But more than game length, they’ve picked up game pace. There’s just more action over less time.
An interesting component to this: Tal Smith, the longtime Astros executive who now works with the Sugar Land Skeeters, helped move this along. Tal, no doubt, still has the ear of many people around Major League Baseball. If these modest things are proven to work and are proven not to disrupt the game too much, they could gain purchase in Major League Baseball.