Nearly two months into baseball’s pitch-clock era, sometimes you wonder how the sport got so slow. Why put up with stopped traffic on what could be a very smooth ride?

“It was the Red Sox/Yankees — a lot of people in these parts, you know about that for sure,” Seattle Mariners manager Scott Sarvis said with a smile last week before a game at Fenway Park in Boston. “I mean, it was four hours every night. A normal 4-2 game was 3 hours and 40 minutes. It sped things up a lot.”

The game the Service team played that night did not trigger either Angel’s or Updike’s prosecution. The Mariners allowed 12 runs and 16 hits while Red Sox pitchers issued eight walks. There were two hits, three errors, 10 pitches and 19 runners on base. Yet it lasted just 2 hours 57 minutes – faster than the average major league game in each of the past seven seasons.

“The first five innings of the game fly by,” Servais said. “We got two or three hits, two or three hits and you look up and it’s the fifth inning and we’re not even an hour old. Then it slows down a bit, but there are some nights where I think, ‘We’re going to do this in an hour and 50 minutes.’

In fact, a few days later on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” – the site of many of the famous marathons between the Red Sox and the Yankees – the Mets and Cleveland Cavaliers clocked in at 2 hours and 6 minutes, the fastest “Sunday Night Baseball” game in eight years.

For veteran players, the most prominent of the changes in Major League Baseball this season — pitch clock — requires an adjustment to the sport’s familiar rhythms. But the results are impossible to ignore: As of Monday, the average time of a nine-inning game was 2 hours, 37 minutes, the fastest MLB pace since 1984. Last season’s average for the same number of days was 3 hours. 5 minutes.

The average time of a nine-inning game was not as high as three hours until 2014. After a short dip in 2015, at least three hours have passed since then. Think of MLB as a suddenly strict decent parent. The kids stay out too late, so now there’s a timeout: 15 seconds with the bases empty, 20 seconds with runners on base.

“If there was a way to get the momentum going without the clock, we would have done it 20 years ago,” said MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Morgan Seif.

“We started Day 1 of spring training with all these new rules in place, and we felt that was the best way to help players through that adjustment period and get them to the other side,” Sword continued. “As we’ve seen in the minor leagues, if you’re on the other side, infractions happen in halftimes and aren’t a big part of the contest — but you feel the clock advantage on every pitch all night. He said.

The rule change, Sword said, worked as MLB intended. With a limit on big bases and strikeouts at the plate, stolen base attempts are up to 1.8 per game, the most since 2012, and the 78.7 percent success rate is the highest in history. Banning defensive shifts that put more than two center fielders on the diamond side has his batting average up to .298, up 6 points from last year.

“You can’t hide the second baseman in the shift anymore,” Red Sox shortstop Kiki Hernandez said. “I feel like there were a lot of offensive second basemen who didn’t play their positions very well, but they were hidden in the shift and they could get away with playing second base. Now you’ve got to be a little more athletic again.”

In some ways, the shift was like a cheat code. The data shows where the batter will hit the ball, so defenders position themselves accordingly. Without transitions, those with a desire for preparation have the edge of sensible interior standards.

“I like the spacing of how the defense is now; it’s just so clean,” said Seattle’s Colton Wong, a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base.

Wong, a left-handed hitter, didn’t see an advantage on offense; He is batting below 200. Overall, however, left-handers are scoring 37 points higher on ground balls and 28 points higher on line drives. Future generations of graphics may never know the wrath of their forefathers.

“It was a nightmare,” said former outfielder Matt Joyce, who hit .242 in 2021 over a 14-year career. To me, the argument was that if it affected rights, then yes. But you were basically killing left-handed hitters, which was clearly unfair. You’re getting rewarded for good communication now, because there are a lot more holes.”

Joyce is now a television analyst for the Tampa Bay Rays, who thrive on the bases. The Rays had 53 stolen bases through Monday, tied for the most in MLB with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The five teams with the lowest payroll this season — Oakland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Cleveland — are also the five teams with the most steals. Cheaper players tend to be younger, and younger players tend to be faster. With a better chance of success on stolen-base attempts, underpaid teams have another weapon.

“History Brook oversees our base running, and he started texting me that we thought these rules were going to be implemented,” he said, referring to the team’s first base coach. “It was about playing for your staff, because we have young, athletic players who have played under these rules a little bit, so they knew what was going on with them. His message from the start of spring training was, “We’re going to run the bases strong.”

The Pirates have struggled in May but are still tied with Milwaukee atop the National League Central until Monday. The Rays, meanwhile, have been the best team in the majors despite losing two starting pitchers to injuries in left-hander Jeffrey Springs and right-hander Drew Rasmussen.

The question remains if the fast pace is affecting a player’s health.

Regarding pitch timing in general — and before Rasmussen’s injury — Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said the rush has clashed with the modern approach to pitching.

“It’s a power lift every 15 seconds,” Snyder said. “It’s all they have. In the year In 2023, no one is holding out. It is more power and less wisdom than before, and now they have time to recover between them.

Pitchers can reset the clock by striking out twice at the plate, even with a runner on base. They have a few other tricks to buy a few seconds here and there, but nothing that changes their mental or physical activity.

“When you’re in trouble, it’s important to slow the game down, and you don’t have that opportunity,” Boston reliever Richard Blair said. “You can only throw so many balls in the hole before they say no.”

Former Chicago White Sox reliever Joe Kelly predicted that injuries to rookies in spring training will “run the clock” because their muscles need more time to recover than the clock allows. That didn’t actually happen, but it might be a matter of perception.

From spring training through Day 55 of the regular season (Monday), pitchers have been placed on the injured list 232 times, compared to 204 last year. Then it was cut short by the closing of spring training in 2022—from Day 2 through Day 55 of this regular season, pitchers’ IL assignments dropped slightly to 109 from 111.

“The best predictor of injury is prior injury, and we have more pitchers on our roster today with more significant injury histories than we’ve ever had in the history of baseball, so there’s a snowball effect,” Sword said.

“But the high-effort, high-speed, high-spin style of play that has emerged over the last two decades has been associated with injuries,” he added. And putting that together, we’re definitely experiencing a bit of a long-term increase. I don’t think there is strong evidence of a material change this year compared to the last two years.

It will take years to assess the true impact of the new laws. If leverage is harder to accomplish, will financial sounding become more popular? Do players feel stronger as the season wears on with less time on the field? With a more attractive product, will attendance — up 6 percent from last year at the same point — continue to rise?

This much we already know: a lot of dead time has passed, and no one wants it back. Clear the weeds from the garden, and the good stuff has more room to grow.

“In addition to his speed, his production is much cleaner,” Mets radio voice Howie Rose said. “Guys are still pushing too hard, plays are still going too far, guys are still trying to get the ball out of the park. But the ball is always getting closer, so it makes you feel better whether it’s in the game or not. And to me, that’s the most exciting thing.”

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