Pace of game has always been an issue for Major League Baseball. Throw in with the declining attention span of our evolving society, the game is threatened by the loss of a younger generation.
New elements have already been added in an attempt to speed up the game. Clocks are now added in-between innings to limit warm up time, batters are not supposed to fully step out of the batters box (though it is not entirely enforced), and coaching visits to the mound are now timed.
Even with the modifications to the game, the average major league game in 2016 has been seven minutes longer than 2015.
Something that might behoove Commissioner Rob Manfred to examine is the intentional walk.
While it will not affect every game played, the time it could shave off of a game may add up in the end.
Here is one example provided by the all-time intentional walk receiver Barry Bonds. It takes 60 seconds for the decision to be made, four slow pitches to be thrown, and a runner to advance to first base.
While a minute may not seem like a lot, if you begin to average it out among all of the games in a season, it could potentially lower the three hour average of a major league game.
According to Fan Graphs, there were 951 intentional walks in the 2015 season.
If you take the average time of 180 minutes of a baseball game, multiply it by the total games played in a year by one team (162) then multiply that by 16 (which is half of the league considering you need two teams to play a game) you get 466,560 minutes of regular season baseball played in one season.
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If you throw in variables such as extra inning games or facing players such as Paul Goldschmidt (who was intentionally walked 29 times in 2015) driving up the total, you could potentially shave 1,000 minutes off of the total running time of a season of baseball.
Instead of having the pitcher make four slow pitches, just signal you wish to intentionally walk the batter. That will take all of two seconds to do.
Also, it keeps pitchers pitch counts low and saves their arms from additional stress. While the intentional walk pitches aren’t equivalent to throwing a 95 MPH fastball, every bit counts when it comes to player health.
While modifying or even eliminating the intentional walk all-together will not shave a tremendous amount of time off of the average time of a major league baseball game, it all adds up in the end.
If Commissioner Rob Manfred is serious about eliminating the three hour game, the intentional walk is the obvious play to address.