All 30 teams will have extended protective netting by Opening Day

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Yesterday the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they would join the parade of other teams who, in the past several months, have announced plans to extend protective netting to the far end of each dugout. With that, all 30 teams will have done so, Major League Baseball just announced.

Major League Baseball did not require them to do so. Rather, in December 2015, Major League Baseball announced a recommendation that clubs extend the netting, coupled with a “fan education” initiative about the dangers of flying balls. I and many others criticized these measures as (a) inadequate; and (b) geared more toward liability avoidance on the part of the league and its clubs than toward the best practices to improve safety measures. While a handful of clubs followed the recommendations in 2016 and 2017, for nearly two years those recommendations were, quite predictably, ignored by most clubs. It seemed it would take a fan being killed or a high-profile instance of a fan being severely injured by a foul ball in order to motivate clubs to make a change.

Seems that was true, because the tipping point on the netting came when a toddler was severely injured by a foul ball at a Yankees game late last season. It was in the wake of that incident that clubs changed their mind on the matter and began, one after another, to implement the changes.

It’s a shame that it took a child receiving multiple facial fractures and bleeding on the brain in order to make clubs come to their senses on this matter, but it’s good that they, finally, have come to their senses.

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%.