A week into the season, Major League Baseball is pleased with the way its soft launch of the pace-of-play initiative is setting in. Per Jayson Stark:
According to MLB, the new rules helped to cut nearly eight minutes off the average time of a nine-inning game over the first week of the 2015 season.
The general consensus among players and baseball officials is that between-inning clocks have had the greatest impact on MLB's effort to speed up the pace of the game.
Through the first Sunday of this season, there were 79 nine-inning games, compared with 85 at the same stage last year. The average length of those games this year has been 2 hours, 54 minutes, 39 seconds. A year ago, the average was 3 hours, 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
Although it is difficult to know if this trend will hold, the average game time through the first week last season varied very little over the course of the season, finishing at 3 hours, 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
White Sox games have fallen in line with the early trend:
- 2015: 2:55
- 2014: 3:08
- 2014 through six games: 3:20
Of course, the start of the 2014 White Sox season was skewed by a four-hour, 19-minute 11-inning game. If you have a seven-hour, 19-inning evening the way the Yankees and Red Sox did, it renders the sample size even more meaningless, so hold off on any grand announcements thus far.
However, it does give me a reason to start looking at the way hitters might have adapted in isolation, which gives us both something to watch during games, and a point for comparisons later in the season. Yes, there isn't much you can glean from FanGraphs' pace times alone one week in:
That's all over the map -- and in Beckham's case, he only has eight plate appearances -- so you couldn't draw sweeping conclusions from that chart. But when you see how some of the more notable hitters have adjusted their routines, it does look like MLB's new rules are present.
Jose Abreu (3.1 seconds faster)
Abreu's an example of how forcing hitters to maintain contact with the batter's box tightens up the game. There was nothing particularly egregious about what he did his rookie year:
But since he doesn't leave the box, the action is even more condensed.
Tyler Flowers (5.4 seconds faster)
Flowers is taking it to another level. Here he is last year, during his most stripped-down between-pitch routine.
Sometimes he added a practice swing to it -- not quite regular enough to consider it a compulsive part of his resetting, but frequent enough to add to his time. Either way, Flowers at his fastest is still slower than his basic sequence this season:
Avisail Garcia (2.1 seconds slower)
While Garcia now takes longer than any other Sox hitter between pitches, this is a case where the sample size is definitely too small. When he takes a pitch without runners on base, he's capable of fewer moving parts than anybody besides Melky Cabrera, even if he's not always this tight:
Because last year, he matched Abreu's pace with an Abreu-ish four steps back:
My guess is that he's making far more contact this year (79 percent, compared to 65 percent in 2014). That means he's fouling off more pitches, so that's my guess as to why his time between pitches is much, much longer than usual.
Conor Gillaspie (1.0 second slower)
Gillaspie, on the other hand, you can set your watch to. Or maybe a sundial. Outside of Paul Konerko, Gillaspie was the most fastidious White Sox hitter between pitches, finding other pieces of his uniform to adjust in place of batting gloves, which he doesn't use.
Considering he did all of that well outside the batter's box, one might think that he might be one of the offenders Major League Baseball is trying to target.
Alas, Gillaspie makes the minimum compromise, adjusting his pants and dirtying up his hands with one foot on the chalk.
Never change, Conor. At least until it starts costing you money.