MLB batting average up 16 points, game time down 31 minutes

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – Major League Baseball’s new rules designed to speed pace of play and encourage more action seem to be working through the first 1 1/2 weeks of the season.

Batting average is up 16 points, stolen bases have spiked 30% and the average game time is down 31 minutes, on track to be the sport’s lowest since 1984.

Limits on infield shifts, a pitch clock and larger bases were all implemented on opening day after testing in the minors and a dress rehearsal of sorts during this year’s big league spring training.

“I think they’re good for the game,” Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “The goal was to not have them get in the way of how we play. That doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win or lose or play well or bad, but just not get in the way.

“And for the most part, we still have I think a couple pitchers that we’re trying to get a little more comfortable, but I think we’re doing OK.”

The league-wide batting average is .249, a rise from .233 during a comparable period at the start of last season, when cold and wet weather likely contributed to a pallid offensive start. Last year’s average rose to .243 by year’s end, the lowest since 1968.

Right-handed batters have a .253 average, up from .236 at the start of last year, and lefty batting average is .245, up from .228.

Toronto’s Matt Chapman, a right-handed batter, leads the major leagues with a .475 average and Miami’s Luis Arraez, a lefty who won the AL batting crown with Minnesota last year, is second at .471. Paul Goldschmidt and the St. Louis Cardinals lead all teams with a .294 mark.

Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is tied with 15 others for the major league lead with two pitch clock violations – both in the same game, one as a hitter and one as a pitcher. The New York Mets have the most of any team with 10.

Two-thirds of pitch clock penalties have been imposed on pitchers. Clock violations were up slightly last week compared to opening weekend but averaged less than one per game.

Average time of nine-inning games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes from 3:09 in the first 11 days of last year, when the final average was 3:04. The average was unchanged from the first four days and is on track to the lowest since it was 2:35 in 1984.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Colorado Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron said. “So I guess we’re still learning but yeah, it seems like there’s not much downtime, especially on defense. It feels like there’s always action going on.”

There have been 125 pitch clock violations in 141 games, an average of 0.89 per game. The average over the first four days had been 0.82.

Eighty-five violations have been on pitchers (68%), 32 on batters (25.6%) and four on catchers (3.2%). In addition, there were two violations for batter timeouts and two for pitcher disengagements.

There have not been any shift restriction penalties.

Stolen bases have averaged 1.3 per game, up from 1.0, and the success rate increased to 79.6% from 74%.

“No. 1, I think throughout the game, we’re creating more action, which is something that was highlighted when we put it in,” Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “Then, the second part of it, and the most important part of it in my mind, is just the pace of play.”

MLB, over objections from players, 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.

Padres claim 2-time All-Star catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from Mets

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO — The scuffling San Diego Padres claimed catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from the New York Mets.

The two-time All-Star was designated for assignment after playing in three games for the Mets. He went 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and an RBI, looking shaky at times behind the plate.

With the disappointing Padres (24-29) getting meager offensive production at catcher, they hope Sánchez can provide a boost. Austin Nola is batting .131 with three extra-base hits and a paltry .434 OPS in 39 games. His part-time platoon partner, second-stringer Brett Sullivan, is hitting .170 with four extra-base hits and a .482 OPS in 21 games since getting called up from the minors April 16.

Luis Campusano has been on the injured list since April 17 and is expected to be sidelined until around the All-Star break following left thumb surgery.

San Diego is responsible for just over $1 million in salary for Sánchez after assuming his $1.5 million, one-year contract.

The star-studded Padres have lost seven of 11 and are 3-3 on a nine-game East Coast trip. They open a three-game series at Miami.

San Diego becomes the third National League team to take a close look at the 30-year-old Sánchez this season. He spent time in the minors with San Francisco before getting released May 2 and signing a minor league contract a week later with the Mets, who were minus a couple of injured catchers at the time.

After hitting well in a short stint at Triple-A Syracuse, he was promoted to the big leagues May 19. When the Mets reinstated catcher Tomás Nido from the injured list last week, Sánchez was cut.

Sánchez’s best seasons came early in his career with the New York Yankees, where he was runner-up in 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting and made the AL All-Star team in 2017 and 2019.

He was traded to Minnesota before the 2022 season and batted .205 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 128 games last year.

With the Padres, Sánchez could also be a candidate for at-bats at designated hitter, where 42-year-old Nelson Cruz is batting .245 with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .670 OPS, and 37-year-old Matt Carpenter is hitting .174 with four homers, 21 RBIs and a .652 OPS.