At the top of the batting averages for major league baseball players is an unexpected, yet not unfamiliar name – David Ortiz, the 40-year old designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox leads all of baseball in weighted Runs Created Plus.
Ortiz is 12 points in front of Mike Trout from the Los Angeles Angels. His return to the top of the hitter’s circle corresponds to the loosening of one of the rules in baseball he despises most – the amount of time batters can take between pitches.
Thus far, in the 2016 season, the pace of play is creeping up to the levels of two seasons ago and the older hitters like Ortiz might be the benefactors of this slow play.
Just prior to last season, Rob Manfred the new commissioner of MLB added rules that were designed to speed the game up. The rules worked as the average game in 2014 took 3 hours and 2 minutes, which was a record high, but was reduced by 6 minutes during 2015.
The tweaks made by Manfred were effective and the attention moved to other on the field problems, like a lack of team offense.
However, unlike the offense, which is continuing to increase, the pace of play set up by Manfred did not have a long stay. The average game this season is nearly as high as in 2014 at 3 hours.
Part of the reason is the new surge in offense as it takes longer for 27 outs to be recorded when the offense is getting more hits and scoring more runs.
On average, between pitch time has increase only 0.07 seconds per pitch in comparison to last season, which explains approximately 9% of the overall increase of 4 minutes to each game on average.
The rules by Manfred aimed at shortening the time between pitches made batters keep a foot in the box between every pitch, thereby eliminating the long and often involved rituals of batters prepping for the next pitch.
Ortiz says the additional time between pitches allows him to better guess the next pitch the pitcher will throw allowing him to offset his decline in bat speed with experience.
That seems to have worked for the veteran as his numbers are up during his last season in the Big Leagues and he is helping Boston maintain close touch to Baltimore in the American League East.