By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The first week of the regular season is in the books as spring is finally here throughout most of the country with temperatures reaching into the 60’s and higher after a long winter. With the pageantry and tradition of Opening Day, America’s pastime is officially back and the boys of summer will be here to entertain us for the next 5 months. As with any of our professional sports, the first action for our team brings hope, excitement, and can lead to overreaction both good and bad. As every baseball fan knows one week does not a season make, so there’s plenty of time left for the local 9 to get on track or figure out what their plan for the season is. Let’s get to some of the bigger storylines in the game after the first live action of the season.
New Pace of Play Rules
The biggest change this offseason came with the institution of the new “pace of play” rules that elicited different reactions from across the sport. As with any change there were those who were proponents and those who were against it. One week into the regular season the results look like this: Average game time sits at 3 hours so far; that’s down from about 3 hours and 8 minutes average last season. The number already includes a Yankees Red Sox game that took 19 innings and 6 hours and 49 minutes. These are very early returns but a 8 minute drop in game time is certainly something to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the year and we will do so for you here each week in This Week in Baseball. Small sample size is the most obvious thing to point out and that is definitely true. I don’t expect game times to be 8 minutes shorter on average by the end of the year, but even creeping towards that average 3 hour game time would be the shortest average game time for the league since the 2012 season when it was exactly 3 hours.
Run production is up
Despite game times being shorter, it hasn’t meant a lack of offense or run production so far. This was another complaint about the league in that offense was way down to about 4 runs per game last season. Through 106 games as of Monday April 13th, teams have scored 882 runs, which is an average of 8.3 per game. That’s a good sign at the very least that even with increased offense the pace of play rules are keeping games moving more quickly by resuming right after the commercial breaks and cutting down on the number of times a batter can step out of the box. The early jump in production could be because pitchers are still settling in to their routines again, or it could be that the new rules are allowing less time for strategizing, forcing pitchers to work more quickly leading to more mistake pitches. Either way, this is another trend I’ll be watching for as the season progresses.
Josh Hamilton and the Angels
This situation continues to get stranger as now the Angels are looking into pursuing legal action against Hamilton following his admitted drug binge during the offseason. The MLB lost its case when an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton’s use of drugs wasn’t a suspend able violation as is occurred during the offseason, and the Angels organization seemed very upset at the time with the owner Arte Moreno saying “I don’t know how that doesn’t warrant a suspension.” While Moreno insists that it isn’t about money, one has to wonder what other possible motivating factor they would have for trying to void Hamilton’s contract. The young man has clearly needed help his entire life in the battle with substance abuse and was able to get clean enough to have a good start to his MLB career and earn a huge payday. His incident over the summer is his first since making his return to baseball and it seems very dispassionate by the organization to be angry he isn’t suspended and immediately try to void the contract. This is bad public relations practice to say the least on the part of the Angels.
I’ll be here each Tuesday with my take on the biggest stories in the game of baseball taking you throughout the regular season.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.