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MLB’s New Pitch Clock: Pitchers Most Impacted (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 7, 2023
Jose Suarez

Jose Suarez had the slowest pace among starting pitchers in 2022.

Under the new pitch clock rules, some pitchers will have to speed up their routines on the mound. Pitchers will now have 15 seconds to begin their windup after receiving the ball back from the catcher and 20 seconds to start their motion with a runner(s) on. If they don’t begin their throwing motion within this period, the opposing batter will automatically be awarded a ball. Hitters will also need to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on the pitch clock, or else they will be charged with an automatic strike.

Most pitchers regularly fall within these parameters, and it won’t take a major adjustment. However, there are a select few notoriously slow workers who may have to revamp their pitching routine a bit.

I doubt any of the following guys are too worried about the change, as they are talented professionals and shouldn’t have much of a problem adjusting. Still, pitchers are creatures of habit, and part of being successful at the highest level is being able to stick to a routine and repeat it over and over again. That holds especially true for pitchers who are trying to replicate their mechanics from pitch to pitch. Speeding things up could cause some frustration for these guys, so it’s something to consider when choosing between two players come draft day.

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MLB Pitchers Most Impacted by the Pitch Clock

Before we start naming names, there are a few quick notes you need to know about the timed measurements identified:

A Few Notes on the Time Measurements

  • The pitch timer metric recorded last year by Statcast was a little different than how it’ll be measured this year. Last season, MLB measured the seconds between pitch releases. It started the clock as soon as the pitcher released the ball and ended when the pitcher released the next pitch – we’ll call this the “Tempo.” This includes the catcher receiving it and throwing it back to the pitcher, so it is not the same as what will be measured this year with the pitch clock.
  • To make up for the difference, Statcast calculated that about six seconds elapsed from the start of the delivery to receiving the return throw. They figured it takes 1.5 seconds to release the pitch, 0.5 seconds for the ball to reach the catcher, and 4 seconds for the catcher to receive it and get it back to the pitcher. Therefore, all times recorded last year should have an average of six seconds subtracted from their total time to match this year’s measurement – we’ll call this the “Equivalent.”
  • Only pitches that were taken for a called strike or ball were noted in last year’s pitch times.
  • Pitchers were also recorded for having any pitch thrown within 15 seconds to be “Fast” and any pitch thrown after 30 seconds to be “Slow.”

Five Pitchers Who Could Be Impacted Most by the Pitch Clock

Jose Suarez (SP – LAA):
Tempo: 22.1 Equivalent: 16.1
Runners on Tempo: 25.7 Equivalent: 19.7

Suarez was the slowest starting pitcher last year from the windup. His average equivalent went over by 1.1 seconds. That’s not astronomical, but remember that’s his average speed, so he’ll definitely have to pick things up.

His more worrisome stat came with runners on. While his average was within this year’s rules (he snuck in by 0.3 seconds), Suarez recorded a “Slow” delivery (over 30 seconds) nearly 25% of the time. That won’t cut it this season unless he wants to continually be handing out free balls. Suarez is a back-of-the-rotation option in deeper leagues but should be followed closely to see if the clock is truly affecting him.

Shohei Ohtani (SP. DH – LAA):
Tempo: 21.7 Equivalent: 15.7
Runners on Tempo: 26.9 Equivalent: 20.9

Ohtani was the second-slowest pitcher in the league last year behind his teammate, Jose Suarez. Maybe the Angels just have a slow catcher who takes his time delivering the ball back to the pitcher. Or maybe it’s all the Southern California sunshine leading to a relaxed disposition. Either way, both of these guys work slowly.

Ohtani’s even worse with runners on base. Among starters, he recorded the third most “slow” deliveries in all of baseball. The Angels ace took over a full 30 seconds a whopping 30% of the time. This could be because Ohtani himself is a base-stealer and knows throwing a runner’s timing off is an advantage, but that HAS to change this year. If he can’t speed things up, hitters are going to be rewarded a lot of walks when Ohtani’s on the bump. It also may affect how well he’s able to hold runners. He only went over that threshold 10% of the time with the bases empty, but with runners on, Ohtani’s going to have to adjust.

Luis Garcia (SP – HOU):
Tempo: 21.2 Equivalent: 15.2
Runners on Tempo: 27.1 Equivalent: 21.1

Garcia works slowly, and it’s not because of the dance he does from the windup. He’s actually slower out of the stretch, averaging over 21 seconds between receiving the ball and starting his next motion. Since the windup doesn’t count towards the allotted time under the new rules, his baby rock won’t make a difference. He’ll just need to hasten his decision-making between pitches.

Kenley Jansen (RP – BOS):
Tempo: 25.6 Equivalent: 19.6
Runners on Tempo: 31.4 Equivalent: 25.4

Jansen is the ultimate slow worker. I’m pretty sure Jansen and Geovanny Gallegos were in a competition last year about who could take longer between pitches. As great as Jansen is, the methodical closer took over 30 seconds with runners on an enormous 57% of the time. His average was 31.4 seconds (25.4 equivalent) which puts him 5.4 seconds over the allowed limit. To be fair, relievers understandably tend to take more time, especially in pressure situations, but Jansen takes the most. He’ll definitely have to adjust, and it won’t be a small task.

Corbin Burnes (SP – MIL):
Tempo: 21.1 Equivalent: 15.1
Runners on Tempo: 25.2 Equivalent: 19.2

Burnes is an elite pitcher, but he loves to dilly-dally between offerings. Constantly tucking his hair behind his ears and stalking around the mound, Burnes likes to take his time. He’s not as slow as the other guys listed, but he’ll need to speed up his routine to abide by the new rules. I doubt he’ll have a problem adjusting, but he’s worth mentioning because he’ll likely be the first pitcher selected in most drafts.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.

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