The MLB Pitch Clock Is a Hit With Fans
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The biggest winner of the first month of the 2023 MLB season isn’t a team or player, it’s a rule: the pitch clock.
Introduced this season, the rule change is making MLB fans more interested in watching ballgames, according to a new Morning Consult survey. And those who have watched say the game is now more enjoyable than it used to be.
Nearly 7 in 10 self-identified MLB fans (69%) and more than 4 in 5 self-identified avid MLB fans (84%) said they are either “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in watching games that have incorporated the new technology to speed up games, increases of 7 percentage points each compared with a survey conducted in March before the start of the season. Under the new rule, pitchers have 15 seconds to throw the next pitch when bases are empty, 20 seconds with a runner on base and 30 seconds between batters.
And the pitch clock is having the intended effect to speed up games: The average time for a regular-season game through May 9 was two hours and 37 minutes. That’s 28 minutes faster than last year, according to MLB.
MLB Fans Show Heightened Interest in Watching Games With Pitch Clock
Early wins for MLB pitch clock
- Nearly 4 in 5 self-identified viewers of at least one regular-season MLB game during the 2023 season (79%) said they are interested in watching games with the pitch clock.
- About 2 in 3 avid MLB fans (67%) and more than half of MLB fans (55%) said they support starting a 15-second pitch clock when the bases are empty, the survey found. To date, there have been minor issues with the pitch clock, such as when Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton argued with the umpire crew about the technology’s start time.
- The general population is 9 points more likely to be interested in watching MLB games now than they were in mid-March, prior to the start of the 2023 campaign.
- There’s moderate interest among younger respondents toward the pitch clock: More than 2 in 5 of those ages 18 to 34 (45%) said they are interested in watching games with the technology, compared with 51% of all U.S. adults, per the latest survey.
Half of MLB Viewers Say Pitch Clock Makes Games More Enjoyable
More on the new MLB rules
- Half of MLB fans who said they’ve watched at least one 2023 regular-season game said the pitch clock has made games more enjoyable to watch, compared with 44% who felt similar toward MLB’s new rule limiting defensive shifts. Only 14% of viewers said the pitch clock made games less enjoyable.
- Nearly half of the group (49%) felt indifferent toward the increase of the base sizes from 15 inches to 18 inches, another change this season.
- More than half of MLB fans (57%) said they support giving a strike to batters who violate the pitch clock, compared with 50% who said the same in March. Meanwhile, 56% of fans said they support giving a ball to pitchers who violate the clock, also a 7-point uptick versus the prior survey.
MLB sees upswing in metrics
As of April 26, MLB league attendance was up 5% compared with 2022, with two-thirds of franchises noticing bumps in their figures. MLB is also seeing year-over-year gains in national TV viewership, which is likely in part because of the quickened pace.
The ideal duration for an MLB game is two hours and 30 minutes, according to MLB’s own fan research shared with Morning Consult. The league previously surveyed 15,000 MiLB.TV subscribers and found that fan support of the pitch clock gradually increased as subscribers watched more games.
“Most importantly, players and umpires have adjusted beautifully,” Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, said recently on MLB Network. “It’s amazing that habits that have been formed over decades have been changed within a matter of weeks. The game really looks a lot more today like it did in the 1970s and ’80s.”
Even some baseball traditionalists, like The Washington Post’s George F. Will, have written that fans should “rejoice” because MLB has turned back the clock, at least for now, to a former era of faster games.
The May 3, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 870 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
Mark J. Burns is a sports analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where he conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the sports industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Before joining Morning Consult, he served as a beat reporter at Sports Business Journal, covering the business of hockey and soccer. Mark graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in history and holds a Juris Doctor from Belmont University. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].