- When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball."
The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
Of course, this rule is never enforced. Plus, the rule doesn't specify anything about how long a pitcher can take with runners on base. In the case of Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez, he takes so long between pitches that even people who love baseball are getting angry. It's become a running complaint throughout the postseason:
It is not easy for defenders to stay sharp behind Pedro Baez. Lady Gaga could sing the anthem between every pitch.— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) October 21, 2016
HILLARY CLINTON: My fellow Americans, it has been a long eight years, but today we are stronger as a na-— (((Jesse Spector))) (@jessespector) October 21, 2016
JOE BUCK: The 2-2 from Pedro Baez...
Pedro Baez pitches so slowly that you can make a joke about how slow he works and it's tired by the time he throws— Patrick Dubuque (@euqubud) October 16, 2016
During the regular season, the average time between pitches was 22.7 seconds. Baez was the slowest worker of all, averaging 30.2 seconds between pitches. In the postseason, he's slowed down even more. Melting glaciers in Greenland move more swiftly. The Dodgers have tried in the past to get him to speed up his delivery, to no avail. "Pedro’s very methodical," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Game 5 on Thursday, in the understatement of the year. Baez allowed five runs, in part because of two defensive miscues in which Dodgers fielders appeared to react a split-second too slowly. Maybe Baez's pace was part of the reason.
Last night's game took 4 hours, 16 minutes to play, ending well past midnight on the East Coast. Besides Baez, the game featured eight pitching changes -- four of them mid-inning -- plus several replay reviews. There weren't even that many walks, just six. It wasn't even the longest nine-inning game of the postseason. Out of 27 postseason games played so far, only six were completed in fewer than three hours (not surprisingly, four of those featured shutouts and another was a 2-1 game). Not including extra-inning games, 11 of the 27 took at least 3 hours, 30 minutes to play. Extended commercial breaks exacerbate the problem.
The minor leagues have experimented with a pitch clock and pitchers like Baez are why it's inevitable we'll get one in the major leagues. The games are too long, and to suggest otherwise is ignoring a legitimate issue. It doesn't mean we dislike baseball to complain about the length of the games, but as an entertainment product you want people besides the die-hards staying up through the end of these games, especially considering some of the amazing late-inning drama we've seen.
We have the Hal McRae Rule for takeout slides at second. We have the Buster Posey rule for collisions at home plate. When we get a pitch clock, maybe we should refer to it as the Pedro Baez Rule.