Frontier League and American Association Implement Pitch Clock for 2023 Season

The pitch clock, which has been in place in the Atlantic League for many years as well as making its way to affiliated minor leagues, has arrived in the Frontier League and the American Association.

According to an article in the Sports Business Journal, the pitch clock seems to be doing what it is intended to do at the minor league level. “MLB data… showed that in its first year in use across MiLB, the pitch clock has ‘reduced the average game time from 3 hours 4 minutes in 2021 to 2:36 in 2022.'”

As someone who has watched countless independent baseball games in the past 20 years, it is painfully obvious that the overall game times have increased. I saw more 4+ hour games last season than I ever have in the past.

Pitch clocks are being introduced to get rid of downtime while not drastically changing the game as a whole.

As a fan who watches games with and without a pitch clock, I do believe it is accomplishing this task.

Even those who were against a pitch clock at first are coming around when they see it in action. At the end of the 2021 season, The Ringer reported:

MLB players have opposed the pitch clock in the past, but the rapid pace of play in Low-A won over doubters such as another former major leaguer and recent addition to the MLB C-suite, senior vice president of on-field operations Raúl Ibañez, who calls the stricter pitch clock the most exciting of the 2021 experiments. “I was not just surprised, but blown away by the pace, the quality of play, how crisp and fluid the game flowed, and not just the action that was involved in the game, but the frequency of action,” Ibañez says. “You had to keep your eyes focused on the game. It felt like a baseball game just with a really great tempo and rhythm to it. It felt like the game that I grew up watching in the 1980s.”

The Ringer

The Frontier League and American Association also seem to think this is going to be a good move.

Official Frontier League Press Release:

The Frontier League announced on Friday they will be adding a Pitch Clock in all ballparks for the 2023 season. The clock, which will limit the time pitchers and hitters take between pitches, is designed to increase the action and reduce the down time in Frontier League games. 

The new rules will require pitchers to wait no longer than 14 seconds between pitches when there are no runners on base.  If there are runners on base, they will have 18 seconds to deliver the ball to home plate.  Batters must be in the box and ready to hit at the 9 second mark.  Violation of these time parameters can result in a called strike or ball depending on the offender. 

The rule changes also include limits on the number of disengagements (pick-off attempts, stepping off the pitching rubber, etc.) a pitcher can make per at-bat.  Once a runner is on base, the pitcher is allowed two disengagements.  If the pitcher makes a third pick-off attempt, for example, and does not pick-off the runner, a balk will be called, and the baserunner(s) will advance one base. 

“The League Directors are committed to offering the best possible entertainment to Frontier League fans, and we believe the addition of a pitch clock will help achieve this goal”, stated Frontier League President Eric Krupa. “These two changes will increase the pace of Frontier League games and provide our fans a more enjoyable experience when they come out to our ballparks or watch our games on FloSports.” 

There will be a grace period to start the Frontier League season, with warnings issued but no penalties enforced.  The automatic ball, strike, or balk will be fully enforced beginning with games on Tuesday, May 30. 

“I am excited to see the use of the pitch clock in our league,” commented Schaumburg field manager and former Frontier League pitcher Jamie Bennett.  “Deep down I am a baseball traditionalist, but this is one of those things that I believe will have a positive impact on our league and the fan experience.  It will keep the game moving and prevent unnecessary delays without really much of a rule change.” 

Over the years, the Frontier League has adopted other rules that mirror what MLB has implemented in affiliated baseball to improve the pace of games.  Previous changes included the adoption of rules to require a batter to keep one foot in the batter’s box and limits on the number of mound visits each team was allowed during games. 

The Frontier League will kick off the 2023 season on Thursday May 11th.  The League is the largest and longest tenured MLB Partner League, featuring 16 teams stretching from St. Louis to Quebec City, Canada. 

Official American Association Press Release:

MOORHEAD, MINN. – The Board of Directors of the American Association has voted to institute pitch clocks as part of an effort to address pace of play. The change is effective for the 2023 season.

The American Association pitch clocks will follow the same rules being instituted in Major League Baseball in 2023. Those rules include:

  • Pitchers will have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with the bases empty.
  • Pitchers will have 20 seconds to deliver a pitch with runners on base.
  • The pitcher must begin his motion before the pitch clock expires or be charged with an automatic ball.
  • Batters must be prepared to receive a pitch in the batter’s box with at least eight seconds remaining. Batters who violate the pitch clock will be charged with an automatic strike.
  • There shall be a 30-second timer between batters.
  • Pitchers will be allowed to step off the rubber or attempt a pick-off move twice per batter. If a third attempt to pick-off a runner is unsuccessful, the runner automatically advances one base.
  • The step-off/pick-off limit resets if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.

In 2022, the American Association average game time reached three hours and eleven minutes (3:11) and has been on an upward trajectory for over a decade. Pitch clocks were utilized on a trial-basis throughout Minor League Baseball in 2022, which resulted in an average savings of 26 minutes per game.

“We believe a move to pitch clocks was a logical evolution based on the data gathered in affiliated baseball. We further believe this will return the game to what it once was when it became America’s pastime,” said American Association Commissioner Joshua Schaub. “As evidenced by the increased pace of play and little to no effect on on-field play, the rousing success in Minor League Baseball can be duplicated in the American Association. The fan experience is first and foremost on our minds at all times and our clubs are excited to begin instituting these new timers in their ballparks to provide the best fan experience.”

Each ballpark will be equipped with three Daktronics pitch clocks. Two will be located behind home plate. The third clock will be located in the outfield. The exact outfield installation location will be determined by each club.

The American Association is the premier MLB Partner League in North America. The 12-team circuit will open the 2023 season on May 11. For more information on the American Association, please visit www.aabaseball.com or our social media channels.

Indy Ball Island will provide updates and reactions as information and data become available during the 2023 season.

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