MLB game times cut 30 minutes, steals double under new rules

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NEW YORK – Major League Baseball’s new rules are working as hoped through the first four days of the season.

The average game time has dropped by 30 minutes, stolen bases have doubled and batting average has increased by 16 percentage points compared to last year’s opening weekend.

Games averaged 2 hours, 38 minutes through Sunday with the new pitch clock, down from 3:08 for the first four days of the 2022 season and a 3:04 final average.

In the first year of restrictions on defensive shifts, the .246 batting average for nine-inning games was up from .230 over the first four days last year, when many games were played in cold and wet weather. Left-handed batting average increased to .232 from .229 in last year’s first four days and right-handed average went up to .254 from .230.

“We are extremely pleased with the early returns,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday. “Fan reaction has been positive to the brisker pace with more action. And players have made a great adjustment to the changes.”

Larger bases have cut the distance between bags by 4 1/2 inches, and stolen bases rose to an average of 1.4 per game from 0.6.

“I think it’s in everybody’s mind, like, whoa, I can run more. And the more you run and you’re successful with it, the more you’re going to run,” Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin said.

Success rate on steal attempts rose to 85% from 67.4%.

“If teams are going to be successful at it, then you’re going to continue to see a high volume of teams pushing the envelope,” New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

MLB felt it was about time for drastic change after the average time of nine-inning games rose from 2:33 in 1981 to 2:46 in 2005 and a record 3:10 in 2021. With the introduction of the PitchCom electronic device to signal pitches, the average dropped to 3:04 for the full 2022 season.

Over objections from players, the 11-man competition committee adopted a pitch clock of 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners. It also required two infielders to be on either side of second base and all infielders to be within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber. Players supported increasing bases to 18-inch squares from 15-by-15, proposed as a safety measure.

These were the most significant rules changes since the pitcher’s mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 for the 1969 season and the American League adopted the designated hitter in 1973, a rule that was extended to the National League in 2022 following its temporary use during the 2020 pandemic-shortened season.

“There’s a lot more action and a lot more appealing product for the fans,” Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said.

The clock has had a noticeable impact, with Colorado-San Diego taking 2:03 on Sunday, Cleveland-Seattle 2:04 on Saturday and the New York Mets-Miami 2:09 on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s wrong to take a semi-victory lap right now,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said, “but we’ll see how it evolves.”

There were 41 pitch-clock violations in the first 50 games, an average of 0.82. Of those, 29 were on pitchers, 11 on batters and one on a catcher.

San Francisco and Cleveland tied for the high with four violations each, and Colorado, Detroit, Houston, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Washington had none.

Sample size is small, with 50 games played of a scheduled 2,430, or just 2%. And early season offense tends to be depressed because of weather in the northwest and midwest – the ball travels better as temperature rises.

Stolen bases reached a live ball-era high of a 0.85 per game in 1987, when Vince Coleman swiped 109. No one has reached 70 since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009, and the 0.46 average in 2021 was the lowest in a half-century before an uptick to 0.51 last year.

Shift restriction impact has been more modest. Batting average on balls in play has increased from .295 for all of last year to .310 for right-handed hitters, while lefty BABIP rose from .283 to .288.

Specific instances stand out, such as a tying single to the right of second by Milwaukee’s Jesse Winker during a three-run eighth-inning rally in Saturday’s 3-1 win at the Chicago Cubs.

“Man, if we were shifted there, probably a double play and we get out of that,” Ross said.

Aaron Judge hits 18th homer of season, Yankees beat Mariners 10-2

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SEATTLE (AP) Aaron Judge homered for the third time in two games, Anthony Volpe and Greg Allen also went deep and the New York Yankees stretched their winning streak to four with a 10-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

Judge hit a towering fly ball on the first pitch of the seventh inning from reliever Darren McCaughan that carried just enough to clear the fence in left-center field, even if it would not have been a homer at Yankee Stadium.

It was the 18th of the season for Judge, who hit a pair of homers in the series opener on Monday night.

While Judge hitting another homer will get the headlines, it was Volpe’s long ball that broke open the game. With two outs in the third inning, Seattle starter Logan Gilbert caught too much of the plate with a 1-2 slider and Volpe drove the pitch 413 feet for a three-run shot and a 6-0 lead. It was Volpe’s eighth homer of the season and snapped a 2-for-22 slide for the rookie.

Allen, filling in for injured center fielder Harrison Bader, hit his first of the season leading off the fourth inning. Isiah Kiner-Falefa also had a key two-run single in the first inning as the Yankees took advantage of an error to give starter Nestor Cortes a 3-0 advantage before he took the mound.

Kiner-Falefa had another two-run single in the ninth. New York has scored at least 10 runs in three straight games for the first time since Sept. 15-17, 2020.

Cortes (5-2) mostly cruised through five innings, allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts. Ty France and Teoscar Hernández had RBI doubles in the fifth inning. Judge nearly stole another hit from Hernández after robbing him of a homer on Monday, but his diving attempt at Hernández’s liner fell for a double.

Gilbert (3-3) lasted just four innings for the second time this season. The five earned runs allowed were a season-high and the four strikeouts matched a season-low.

SEE YA LATER

Seattle catcher Tom Murphy and manager Scott Servais were both ejected by plate umpire Brian Walsh in the sixth inning. Murphy was ejected after yelling toward first base umpire C.B. Bucknor following a check-swing that was called a strike. Servais argued the decision to eject Murphy and was quickly tossed by Walsh. It was the second ejection this season for Servais.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: Bader (hamstring) was placed on the 10-day IL after leaving Monday’s game in the third inning injuring his right hamstring running out an infield single. OF Franchy Cordero was recalled.

Mariners: McCaughan was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to add a long reliever to the bullpen. RHP Juan Then was optioned to Tacoma. It was Seattle’s first roster move in 24 days.

UP NEXT

Yankees: RHP Clarke Schmidt (2-5, 5.58) took the loss despite allowing only one earned run over five innings in his last start against Baltimore. Schmidt has gone at least five inning in five of his last seven starts.

Mariners: RHP George Kirby (5-4, 3.43) was knocked around for seven earned runs and four home runs allowed in his last start against Pittsburgh. Both matched career highs.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports