An Automatic Strike to End a Game 

Just the way the Sox drew it up, I’m sure.

When the MLB season starts at the end of March, it will feature several rule changes. One of the most notable of those is sure to be the new pitch clock, which requires pitchers to deliver a pitch in a set amount of time and batters to be ready to face it. On Saturday, the rule led to a game ending after an automatic strike was assessed to a slow batter for Atlanta.

It was the situation that every child growing up playing baseball dreams of. Game tied at 6, bottom of the ninth inning, bases loaded and a 3-2 count. Atlanta infielder Cal Conley was at the plate, facing Boston relief pitcher Robert Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski stared in for the sign from his catcher and came set to throw a critical pitch on a full count.

Conley was charged an automatic strike for not being ready in time under the new pitch clock rules, and the strike out was called.

Not…exactly how kids dreamed of that situation unfolding when playing in the backyard growing up, but this is the new normal in MLB. Thankfully everyone has spring training to get adjusted before this happens in the regular season.

This particular incident is extra silly because spring training games don’t have extra innings, and thus the game simply ended in a tie.

Despite this foolishness, I’m quite excited about the pitch clock. I expect it will speed up game times significantly, particularly given what we saw last seasons in the minor leagues:

To people familiar with the myriad rule changes MLB officials tested in recent years, the pitch clock has long felt like the most foolproof way to rejuvenate the sport. In its first year in use across the minor leagues, it has reduced the average game time from 3 hours 4 minutes in 2021 to 2:36 in 2022, according to MLB data through Sunday. MLB matchups have not averaged a game time that brief since the early 1980s.

Substantially shorter games will be a boon for the sport. I just hope players adapt quickly, so these penalties don’t wind up playing a critical role in big moments.