Pitchers' opposition to pitch clock is selfish and short-sighted

Alex Reimer
February 19, 2019 - 10:33 am

Red Sox pitchers can say they love their fans, but their opposition to the pitch clock shows their words are nothing more than lip service. It is selfish behavior to expect people to wait 25.2 seconds between pitches, which is the average time it took Red Sox pitchers to throw the ball last season. 

But if it were up to the pitchers, that’s the way it would be. Come to Fenway for the peanuts, cracker jacks, and Matt Barnes stepping off the rubber to adjust his cup. 

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo penned a sympathetic article on the subject Tuesday, presenting numerous half-baked arguments against speeding up the game by a few minutes. In the minor leagues, the 20-second pitch clock has shaved, on average, eight minutes per contest since it was implemented four seasons ago. 

The measure will be tested in Spring Training before a decision is made on the regular season. 

While the pitch clock isn't a panacea for baseball’s plodding pace, it should be an easy start. But pitchers seem to resist it at every turn. David Price, who says he ultimately would be able to adjust to the 20-second clock –– that’s what $217 million can buy, ladies and gentlemen –– told Cafardo the idea contradicts everything pitchers are taught.

“Throughout our development, we’re taught to slow down the game, and now we’re being asked to speed it up,” the lefty said.

Price took a mind-numbing average of 26.9 seconds between pitches in 2018, so his apprehension is understandable. But Rick Porcello, one of the fastest workers on the Red Sox, also expressed his opposition to the Globe. The team’s vice president of pitching development Brian Bannister –– who says analytics have gone too far? –– suggested asking professional pitchers to not take longer than 20 seconds to throw the ball could lead to injury.

That’s right, injury.

“More rest in between reps is a benefit,” Bannister said to Cafardo. “The more you fatigue your body, the more stress you’re putting on it.”

There’s no indication that throwing the ball at a bearable pace leads to a greater chance of injury. The five starters who took the fewest time between pitches last season –– Zach Wheeler,  Kyle Hendricks, Jacob deGrom, Luis Severino, Gio Gonzalez –– averaged 31.6 starts. They were horses. (None of them were below the 20-second threshold, lending further credence to the necessity of a clock.)

Out west, Dodgers hurlers and ex-World Series foes Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill are also kvetching about the proposal. Kershaw told the LA Times he intends to ignore the clock if it is implemented.

In other words, he must enjoy the idea of pitching if front of empty seats and people with their faces glued to their smart phones all summer long. That’s what Kershaw and other pitchers are asking for if they don’t pick up the pace.

It’s true that the rising strikeout and walk rates are the biggest reasons for baseball’s failure to speed things up. But that’s not an argument against putting in the pitch clock. It’s an argument to put the pitch clock in immediately, because it is literally the least baseball can do.

In the NFL, Tom Brady can drive down the field for a touchdown in one minute of real time. It’s not too much to ask pitchers to throw three pitches during that span.