The Aviators have had a pitch clock since 2015. But it was not until this season that a time limit between pitches was enforced.
The result has been a significant reduction in the length of games.
Before the season, Major League Baseball announced the enforcement of the pitch clock in the minor leagues with pitchers having to deliver a pitch within 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 seconds with runners on base.
If the pitcher fails to deliver a pitch within that time frame, a ball is added to the count. If a hitter is not set in the batter’s box with nine seconds remaining on the timer, a strike is added to the count.
Through the first week of the season the clock was on, but not enforced, with umpires just giving warnings as teams got acclimated to the change.
ESPN reported that the pitch clock is shaving off an average of 20 minutes off game times, with an average time of 2 hours, 39 minutes.
Ten Aviators games this season have finished under the three-hour mark. In the Aviators’ six-game series against the Salt Lake Bees April 13-17, all six games finished under the average time reported by ESPN, with the longest game going 2 hours, 36 minutes.
“The games have actually been sped up, so it is definitely serving its purpose,” Aviators manager Fran Riordan said.
The time being saved in the minor leagues is paving the way for the clock to make its way into Major League Baseball in 2023. If that comes to fruition, Riordan knows current major leaguers will have to make changes.
“There’s going to be a lot of adjustments that have to be made because the guys that are playing in the big leagues right now have never had to use a pitch clock,” Riordan said. “The way it’s been formatted now, they’ll have to adapt to that system.”
Riordan and his players have made the necessary adjustments to the clock and the automated ball-and-strike calls aimed at increasing the pace of play.
Aviators pitcher Austin Pruitt has made 73 appearances in the majors sine 2017. He said he hasn’t seen the clock effect the game that much, citing himself and the other pitchers as having “a pretty good pace.”
Pruitt said the clock is serving its purpose of saving time. He acknowledged a downside, though, especially for pitchers who are not used to it.
“If you need to take a step back and gather yourself, you don’t really have that luxury to do that,” Pruitt said. “That’s the only tough part about it.”
Riordan said some players have struggled adjusting to the quicker pace of play. But just like how the Aviators have adapted this season, the players will adjust to the rules over time.
“There’s no gray area,” Riordan said. “It’s a very black and white system that we’re using now. The more we play and the more the players change their habits, down the line it’ll just be the way the game is played.”
Contact Alex Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.