MLB could still have a 162-game season

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Multiple reports indicate that MLB might still be interested in having a 162-game season, despite the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As we wrote earlier today, the current line of thinking is that Opening Day could come as late as May. In the absolute best-case scenario that play resumes on May 1st, that could mean the playoffs bleeding deep into November, or possibly even December.

While it’s understandable that the league would want to recoup as much revenue as possible following the delay, it’s also hard to imagine that the season running that late would be anything but unwieldily. Not only would MLB be competing with the heart of the NFL playoff push, but late-November weather is hardly suited for baseball. A number of players already bundle up as much as possible for World Series games played in late October. Late November or early December would be even tougher on the players, to say nothing of the fans in the stands.

That means that a neutral site World Series would have to be considered, so that the games could be played under a dome in an environmentally-controlled environment. The owners of the two teams in the Series would be loathe to give up the potential gate revenue, but it’s either that or playing in 20-degree weather under the threat of snow delays. MLB is surely praying that either two teams who play in roofed stadiums make the World Series, or that it involves the Dodgers or Padres. Imagine if the Twins had to host games in December!

Having the season end that late in the calendar would also have ramifications for 2021. Baseball players rely on the length of the offseason to rest up and heal. Knocking a month or month-and-a-half off of the offseason could lead to some health troubles in next year’s spring training. Baseball almost surely doesn’t want to delay the start of the season again, so one imagines that delaying the start of next year’s spring training would be off the table.

This is a decidedly weird time for sports and it’s only going to get weirder. Unfortunately that’s the story of the age of COVID-19.

If you want to learn more about COVID-19, give the CDC’s site about the virus a read. Informing yourself is the most important first step.

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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%.