Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is encouraged by pace-of-play changes that have limited mound visits and reduced the time between innings at major league games this season.
Speaking in Toronto on Tuesday before the Blue Jays hosted the Boston Red Sox, Manfred said the new rules have sped up games without any disruption. Mound visits without pitching changes averaged 3.79 per game through Sunday, down from 7.41 for the 2017 season.
“Whenever you change a rule in baseball, people predict all sorts of dire outcomes, and we have avoided even the smallest of incidents related either to the mound visit rule or the shorter inning breaks,” Manfred said Tuesday. “Secondly, I’m positive about them because they’ve been effective.
We are way down in terms of mound visits, I think down about 50 percent, and our inning breaks are significantly shorter. I take both of those as positives in an ongoing effort to make sure that we’re producing an entertainment product with as little dead time as possible.”
Manfred is a proponent of the pitch clocks currently in use in the minor leagues, but said he was “not in a position where I’m going to say for certain whether or not we’re going to have pitch clocks at the big league level.” The players’ association refused to agree to pitch clocks, and Manfred backed off of his threat to unilaterally implement them this year.
The commissioner also spoke about the number of games postponed by poor weather so far. Games in Baltimore and Pittsburgh were rained out on Tuesday, bringing the total postponements this season to 28, the most related to weather through April since the commissioner’s office started keeping those records in 1986.
“This has really been a unique April for us,” Manfred said. “We’ve set a record for the number of games that have been canceled and, probably more troublingly, we’ve played a lot of games in really tough weather. I think we have 12 cities that have been more than 10 degrees below their average temperature for the month of April.”
Still, Manfred said the solution isn’t as simple as scheduling early-season games in domes and warm-weather cities.
“No teams are going to want to start the season on the road for a couple of weeks,” Manfred said. “In fact, the Basic Agreement prohibits a trip that long. Equally important, the domed and warm-weather markets don’t want that many games early in the year. Whether you have a dome or it’s warm weather, until school gets out they are tougher dates. We will do everything possible to try to schedule in a way that minimizes weather damage. It’s in our interest to do that. But there are real limitations in the schedule.”