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Major League Baseball asked all 30 respective teams yesterday to speed up the games by having the pitchers throw a pitch every 12 seconds. The rule was already on the books, but hadn't been enforced very strictly. If pitchers exceed the 12 second time limit they will be warned the first time and if it happens again, the umpire will call that pitch a ball.
Batters will also be expected to stay in the batter's box, and if they exceed the 12 second limit the umpire will call an automatic strike. There will be no more lollygagging as batters walk from the on deck circle to the batter's box.
Other measures are being taken to speed up the games including:
- Umpires breaking up mound conferences promptly.
- Pitchers will move immediately to the mound after a half inning is completed.
- Relief pitchers will walk fast to the mound after being signaled to enter the game.
- Batboys will be expected to have a second bat ready if a batter breaks their bat.
- A designated player or coach will be ready to warm up pitcher if catcher is putting on equipment.
It will be interesting to see if umpires check their watches between each pitch. I have heard in the past that baseball was going to speed up the games as recently as a year ago, yet I saw no change on the field. If this is going to work, the umpires will have to enforce the rules, or this will be an exercise in futility.
I am not so sure I want to see the games sped up since baseball is unique in that there are no time clocks, but if these rules are enforced, it will be like having a 12 second clock between pitches.
Yesterday, the Texas Rangers defeated the Minnesota Twins 10-1 and the game lasted only 2 hours and 24 minutes, despite 249 pitches being made in the game, and 11 runs crossing the plate with 23 hits in the contest. There were only two walks issued by the pitchers. I checked the times of all the games and most of the games were over in less than 3 hours except for some higher scoring games and a ten inning game. I am anxious to watch a game on television and see if the umpires are going to enforce the rules or if it will be like when baseball declared how high and how low a strike would be called. The umpires today are still calling balls and strikes the way they want to and have their own personal strike zone.
Around the Bases
The Oakland Athletics' starting rotation is looking better with the return of Rich Harden and the emergence of Dana Eveland (4-3), who pitched the Athletics to a complete game 9-1 win, allowing only three hits yesterday. Eveland has allowed three runs or less in 9 of his 10 starts, and has a plus 14 in innings pitched over hits allowed, which is best among the starters on the team. Andy Sonnanstine (6-2) had his second worst start of the season for the Tampa Bay Rays, but without him, the Rays wouldn't be where they are now. Jack Cust homered twice and drove in four runs. Thirteen of the Athletics pitchers have pitched ten or more innings, and only two of them (Alan Embree and Huston Street) have ERA's over 4.00. If they keep pitching this well, the Athletics will be in the AL West race all season. Greg Smith leads the team in strikeouts with 46.
It looks like the New York Yankees have finally found a fourth starter they can depend on in Darrell Rasner (3-0), who silenced the bats of the Baltimore Orioles, who had scored 12 runs on Tuesday night in the 8-0 shutout win. Alex Rodriguez homered for the second consecutive night after having only 4 homers in his first 24 games. He had a slugging percentage of .495 before returning to action on Tuesday night, and is currently slugging .582. He is now in range of the .600 mark, which he has done seven times in his career.
Bartolo Colon (1-0) won his first start of the season, as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals for the third straight time. The Royals lost the game 6-3 and scored only 4 runs in the 3 game set with Boston. Now the Red Sox have a plethora of starters with their depth chart at mlb.com, showing Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, and Justin Masterson as the starting rotation. That still leaves Colon, Clay Buchholz, and Curt Schilling as starters. That is about as solid of a group of starters as there is on any team in baseball. Masterson will probably be sent back to the Minors when Buchholz returns, and if and when Schilling returns, Buchholz may lose his spot in the rotation.
The Detroit Tigers are seeing some hope of things falling into place for them, as they defeated the Seattle Mariners 9-4. The pitching is finally coming back with Justin Verlander winning Tuesday and Kenny Rogers winning yesterday. Jeremy Bonderman tries for his first win since April 30th today. The Tigers have scored 21 runs in their last two games. In their previous eight games, they had scored only 20 runs. The hitters are hitting again, except for Gary Sheffield, who is hitting .183 and is 17 points under the "Uecker Line".
Jon Garland (5-3) pitched the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Vladimir Guerrero took care of the Angels' offense, hitting his 5th and 6th homers of the season and driving in all four runs for the Angels. Garland has only struck out a total of 14 batters in 10 starts this season. If he keeps up this pace, he will finish the season with about 50 strikeouts.
The Chicago White Sox won their seventh in a row by defeating the Cleveland Indians 7-2 and extending their lead in the AL Central to 2 1/2 games. Jermaine Dye hit his 7th and 8th homers of the season. It is amazing that the White Sox are in first place with five regular players hitting .219 or below; Orlando Cabrera is hitting .219, Paul Konerko is hitting .216, Jim Thome is hitting .214, Nick Swisher is hitting .210, and Juan Uribe is hitting below the "Uecker Line" at .198. One thing for sure is that these five players won't all finish the season hitting this badly. The pitching is doing fine with the exception of Mark Buehrle with a 5.27 ERA. I have always thought of Bobby Jenks as a strikeout pitcher, but he only has 12 strikeouts in 19 innings, while Octavio Dotel has 28 in 18 innings.
The Texas Rangers defeated the Minnesota Twins 10-1 behind the pitching of Sidney Ponson (3-0) and the 17 hit attack of the Rangers offense. Ponson has allowed only one homer in 34 innings this season.
The Florida Marlins took a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, defeating Brandon Webb (9-1), giving him his first loss of the season. 11,227 fans showed up to see the game after having less than 9,000 the game before. Each team has only one regular player hitting over .300, with Dan Uggla hitting .323 for the Marlins, and Justin Upton hitting .304 for the Diamondbacks.
The Atlanta Braves defeated the New York Mets 11-4, and have outscored them 23-7 in the three wins over the Mets this week. Jair Jurrjens (5-3) took the win for the Braves. Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Jeff Francoeur were 10-for-15 in the game combined, and drove in 10 runs. Jones hit his 398th homer of his career. The top of the order didn't fare nearly as well, as Omar Infante and Mark Kotsay were 1-for-10, with Kotsay going 0 for 6 and leaving 9 runners on base.
Ryan Howard had his best offensive game of the season by homering twice for the first time this season and driving in four runs, which was the first time he had more than 2 RBI's in a game. ESPN.com projects him to have 41 homers this season, so he still could have a good year, but he could shatter the Major League strikeout record, as he is projected to strikeout 233 times this season.
Jamie Moyer (3-3) won his 234th game, as they defeated the Washington Nationals 12-2 after only scoring one run in their last two games. Moyer is having problems against righthanded hitters, who are hitting .344 against him. However, when you add lefties to the equation, batters hit .325 against him. Brett Myers is allowing hitters to hit .307 against him, hitters are hitting .297 against Kyle Kendrick, .287 against Adam Eaton, and .202 against Cole Hamels. The most disturbing stat to me is that Myers has allowed 15 homers in 59 innings, not to mention that Myers is 12th and last on the entire pitching staff with a 5.76 ERA.
Albert Pujols singlehandedly put the San Diego Padres starting pitcher Chris Young out of action with a line drive off Young's nose, and his home plate collision with Josh Bard has Bard reportedly heading to the disabled list. The St. Louis Cardinals pounded out 16 hits in their 11-3 win over the Pads. Ryan Ludwick drove in three more runs, and he currently leads Pujols in homers 12-11, and is second in the Majors with a .733 slugging percentage and is only topped by Lance Berkman with a .763 percentage. Troy Glaus has only hit two homers this year, but is still second on the Blue Jays' roster in RBI's (32), which is one more than Pujols.
It took Shawn Chacon ten starts before he finally got his first decision of the 2008 season. The Houston Astros defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-3 and are looking more and more like they are serious contenders for the NL Central title, as they moved to within a game and a half of the first place Cubs.
The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cincinnati Reds 5-2, as Johnny Cueto (2-5) continues to self destruct, showing (once again) that fortunes can reverse fast in Major League Baseball. After his impressive debut when he pitched seven innings of one hit ball while striking out 10 against the Diamondbacks, his season has careened out of control, having allowed five or more runs in four of his starts since then, and his ERA climbing to 5.56.
High Gasoline Prices and Attendance
It will be interesting to see what effect the escalating gasoline prices will have on attendance at Major League games. It would be interesting to know if any readers of this article have canceled plans to go to a Major League game because of the high gas prices. It probably won't have too much effect on fans who live in the immediate area of a Major League Baseball park, but for fans who travel long distances, it could affect attendance significantly.
I was halfway thinking of driving to Atlanta to see the Braves, but with the high gas prices, I have no choice but to stay home here in Knoxville and watch the local Smokies instead but even that is a 28 mile one way trip to the baseball park in Kodak, Tennessee.
Update on Grandson's Baseball Season
My daughter and her family were in Knoxville last weekend and they brought a video they had made of Matthew's last game. He pitched reasonably well and kept the game in reach, with the other team winning 3-0. Matthew, who had not been hitting that well earlier in the season, singled in two runs and made the score 3-2. His team went on to take a 6-3 lead, but the other team came back to win the game. Matthew hit the ball hard all three times at bat in that game.
Matthew talked to me on the phone after they returned home and he had played another game on Tuesday night that went into extra innings that they won. Matthew said he had 4 hits in that game. He told me he was scared to swing at the ball earlier in the season, but now that he knows he can hit the ball, he is getting a lot of hits. If he keeps hitting like this, he will make the All-Star team. Last year, he hit the ball well, but he wasn't hitting it to the outfield, so he was grounding out a lot. However, this year is different becuase he is hitting it over the infielder's heads and his hits are reaching the outfield.
His team isn't doing that great, but he is playing just as hard as if he was on a winning team. It is killing me to be 673 miles away while he is playing baseball in Louisiana. The most impressive thing about Matthew to me is that he has fun, but still takes the game very seriously. He is constantly smiling on the field because he loves baseball.