Studies Say Don’t Implement the 20 Second Pitch Clock

Commissioner Rob Manfred has recently announced that he is interested in introducing a pitch clock to Major League Baseball.  The pitch clock was first introduced last year in the upper levels of the minors, and it appears the Commissioner is pleased with it’s progress.

The rule as stated is that a pitcher must starts his windup or motion within 20 seconds of having the ball while stepping on the pitching rubber.  The rule has initiated in the minors to help speed the pace of play which has been the Commissioner’s focus since he took over for Bud Selig.  The Commissioner has considered various routes including limiting the use of relievers.  However, it appears the Commissioner is focusing upon the pitch clock as a means to improve the pace a play.  It’s a bad idea that may lead to pitcher injuries.

According to a recent study from the Journal of Sports Science, there is a link between the amount of time a pitcher takes between pitches and arm injuries.  The researchers, Michael Sonne and Peter Keir analyzed the amount of time between pitches and arm injuries, and from there, they were able to make the correlation.  According to Sonne, “One of the risk factors that we typically look at with muscle fatigue and injury is the amount of time people have to recover from doing effort.”  (Brendan Kennedy, The Star).  When a pitcher experiences fatigue according to Sonne, “you essentially lose the ability to stabliize the (elbow) joint as they throw.”  Overall, when looking at pitchers, Sonne states you need to look “at the duration of exposure to pitching, but also the duration of rest.”

To that end, the researchers have concluded that baseball’s proposed 20 second pitch clock is a bad idea.  Sonne states, “If you put in this pitch clock it’s a very cut-and-dry way of reducing the amount of recovery time that a pitcher has.”Sonne and Keir concluded that the 20 second pitch clock would create muscle fatigue for pitchers who take longer than 20 seconds between pitches, and as a result, it would expose them to injury.  It may not seem like a big deal, but as Sonne points out, “It seems like a small amount, but when a pitcher is throwing at maximum effort, every bit of muscle force matters.”

This proposed rule is a huge problem for the Mets young pitchers.  As per Fangraphs, the young Mets starters have needed more than 20 seconds to throw a pitch

Name Team Pace Pitches
Noah Syndergaard Mets 23.9 2,238
Steven Matz Mets 18.7 2,153
Jacob deGrom Mets 21.1 2,065
Matt Harvey Mets 21.5 1,514


It should be noted that according to FiveThirtyEight, a pitcher’s pace is the one statistic that remains consistent each and every year.  A pitchers ERA, WHIP, K/9, etc. will rise and fall each and every year, but pace is the one thing that remains largely unchanged.  This means that Syndergaard’s, deGrom’s, and Harvey’s health would be at risk in the event that the 20 second pitch clock were implemented.

Keep in mind that Harvey, Matz, and deGrom have already had Tommy John surgery.  Additionally, Harvey recently had surgery to remove a rib to help alleviate the symptoms from his thoracic outlet syndrome.  While Syndergaard has not had Tommy John surgery, he has been dealing with bone spurs in his elbow.  Syndergaard also throws the ball at a high velocity, has begun throwing a slider with much more frequency, and he is experiencing a large jump in his innings pitched from 2014.  Adding a pitch clock will only further serve to create another possible avenue by which Syndergaard, and really all young pitchers, could injure themselves.

The pitch clock sounds good in theory as a faster pace of play will certainly be more enjoyable for the fans to watch.  However, the pitch clock will be counterproductive if it prevents the best and most exciting pitchers from taking the mound.  The best fix might be to instill the good habits in the minor leagues and hope they carry those good habits forward.