Is this thing on?

A play-by-play guy trying to survive in a mid-major world

Pace of Play

The Indianapolis Indians are in Louisville for a brief two games series.  The Tribe is 2-4 and unfortunately they are not a bounce here or a break here from being 4-2.  This team is off to a bad start and it may take some time for them to turn it around.  The offense, which was expected to put up some numbers, has been held to 4 runs or less in 5 of 6 games and was shutout last night in Toledo.  It is still very early and the warmer temps in Louisville may be exactly what the team needs.  I know I need it, it’s fantastic here in the ‘ville. 

 

Indians fans can expect the team to eventually score some runs and hopefully the pitching staff will have a chance to catch their breath.  Ever since giving up 17 (gulp) runs on opening night, the pitching staff has been behind the 8 ball.  The bullpen is logging some heavy innings and the opposition has scored at least 5 runs in a single inning in 3 of the first 6 games.  Jeremy Powell told me that the team needs to change what they are doing because they are way too good to be struggling.  What did he mean by that?  “Change the routine, do something different because this needs to end.”  Thanks JP

 

Not everything is as bad as it seems.  1B Steve Pearce is off a great start and has brought an even better attitude to the clubhouse.  Pearce is out of options and either he makes it with the Pirates or he proves his worth to other teams.  When you finally have nothing to lose, you can relax and play baseball.  UTIL Neil Walker is in a similar boat to Pearce and he is more relaxed this season.  Last season Neil went out trying every night to go 4 for 4 and push his way into the Pirates plans.  That didn’t work out.  This season he is prepared to wear an Indians uniform for the long haul as long as he plays everyday.  So far, so good and you can see the results at the plate with an un-Neil like 5 walks and zero strikeouts.  The major surprise is his play at 2B.  I believe Neil’s offensive numbers are better suited for 2B and the early returns are he can play the position.  Pearce told me that Neil does not look like a 1st player at second and former Indians INF Brian Bixler was impressed with a double play Neil turned against Bixler’s Columbus Clippers.  Neat story…on Sunday, Bixler played 2B for Columbus and Neil played 2B for the Indians.  Each inning Bixler marks the dirt with slashes to help position himself for each batter.  When he would return the following inning, Walker had rubbed out the marks and with his spikes would leave a “friendly” message or two to his former roommate.

 

PACE of PLAY: 

 

The Indians first four games against Columbus were all longer than 3 hours with Friday night’s 14-12 Indians win lasting 3 hours and 52 minutes.  It was a NINE inning game.  Pace of play is an issue in the Major Leagues, but in reality it is not a problem in the minors.  The problem with the Columbus series was 66 combined runs and a boat load of base runners.  A couple of year ago the Minor League’s instituted a rule preventing the batter from stepping out of the batters box.  “If a guy wants to constantly dig in, you just ask him if he wants to dig our hit.  The rules on the field should be policed by the players.”  C Erik Kratz went on to say that if you want to speed up the game, then call strikes.  Pitchers Chris Jakaubaskas and Kevin Hart echoed that sentiment.  Both players pitched in the big’s last year and said the high strike is rarely, if ever called.  Expanding the strike zone would help with the pace of the game.  Kratz took it a step farther and asked me who is complaining about the pace of play?  I don’t know the answer.  Is it fans, umpires (Kratz laughed at that one), or the media.  It is a concern to Commissioner Bud Selig and he has one unusual solutions.  That would be to limit the visits a catcher can make to the mound.  Well you could imagine that didn’t sit too well with Kratz.  He admits to wearing out a path from the plate to the mound.  “Terrible idea, there is no way you can take that away from a catcher.  Should I yell to my pitcher that we are going with the 2nd sign?”  He went on to say that most of the visits are not to delay the game, but make sure everyone is on the same page.  If you are not on that page, you will have more hits and more runs and an even longer game. 

 

What is baseball to do with the length of games?  The main issue appears to be with all the equipment adjusting that is done in between pitches.  I suggested to a few players removing the armor, but that was quickly shot down by Kratz.  “So I’m going to send my pitcher with the golden elbow to the plate unprotected?  OK, allow pitchers to wear the gear.  Kratz responded, “Then Pedro Alvarez can’t wear a pad to protect his elbow?”  There is no good answer other than to call more strikes.  Is the pace of baseball too long?

 

Here are some numbers from the past four seasons:

 

2006          2:40

2007          2:46

2008          2:47

2009          2:48

 

Why has there been an 8 minute increase over the past four seasons?  Indians media intern guru Chris Binnall did the work and when he emailed me the results I was sitting in the dugout.  So I asked Neil Walker why he thinks there has been an increase.  He says there could be a few reasons, but the main one is the new stadiums.  Huntington Park in Columbus is a much different park from the deep outfield walls at the old Cooper Stadium.  For the past few years Indians coaches have told me the league pitching keeps getting worse and maybe they are right.  Remember the length of the game may not bother you, it’s the pace that can turn fans off.    

 

We will follow the time of games throughout the season.  Here tonight’s game beginning at 7:05 at Indyindians.com

 

Follow me on Twitter:  @ScottDMcCauley                  

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