The serious negotiations over Major League Baseball's pace-of-play initiatives haven't really started yet and probably won't for weeks to come. Once MLB and the Players Association dig into their talks, there will be haggling over the particulars of some ideas, like restrictions on the number of mound visits.
But the foundation of the changes to come in 2018 will be in the implementation of a pitch clock, sources say, and MLB is intent on using the same limit used in the minor leagues the past three seasons -- 20 seconds between pitches when there are no runners on base.
Not 25 seconds.
Not 18 seconds.
Twenty seconds, with pitchers required to begin their motion within 20 seconds of the previous pitch.
After informal conversations between MLB and the players' union in August, some players walked away from those meetings resigned to the idea that, one way or another, a pitch clock would be put in place for 2018. They wondered, however, if the time between pitches might be negotiated to 22 seconds or 24 seconds.
MLB, however, wants the 20-second pitch clock. And whether the union agrees or not, MLB has the power to implement this and other rules for the 2018 season.
That being said, baseball officials would prefer to successfully negotiate the terms of change with the players this winter. This way, both sides will be committed moving forward.
One way or another, sources expect the 20-second pitch clock to become part of a sport that has long been celebrated for its timelessness. But with the average time of game now lagging to over three hours, commissioner Rob Manfred has been devoted to the mission of speeding up the action as part of an effort to appeal to the newest generations of fans.
According to data published by Fangraphs, no starting pitcher who qualified for the ERA title averaged under 20 seconds between pitches in 2017; the average was about 23.5 seconds. Pedro Baez of the Dodgers was the slowest-working reliever at 31.1 seconds between pitches.
If the pitch clock is implemented, pitchers will have to make adjustments.
Some club officials, though, noted that some hitters may be more affected by the pitch clock than pitchers because of the habits they developed between pitches, such as stepping out of the box, adjusting their batting gloves and taking extra practice swings.
Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera led all National League players who qualified for the batting title with 29.3 seconds between pitches, and the Astros' Marwin Gonzalez averaged an MLB-high 29.5 seconds. The Phillies fielded three of the six slowest-working hitters in MLB last season.