Happy February, we’re just a couple weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, then shortly after, we will see the MLB players ease into the new rules that include the pitch clock and shift restrictions. AC also spurred some thought with a share of pitchers with weird arm angles in the previous post, which is a fun excuse to use this gif that you will read in Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine voice.
Regardless of funky deliveries and the associated deceptiveness to opposing batters, the idea was that a pitch clock would remove a built-in “break” for pitchers on the mound, and they would have to know the pitch sequence and selection more expeditiously while having less time to recover between pitches, which may mean fewer maximum effort pitches (which might need a Deadpool gif but maybe later). The limited disengagements from the pitching rubber also removes another break, and of course the limited mound visits per game means they wouldn’t get a breather that way either since the catcher can’t do the buddy-buddy thing anymore to reset his batterymate. So one theory was that the pitcher does have to reduce max effort to avoid injury, or if they’re unwilling to adapt, could mean more risk of injury.
Another angle I hadn’t thought about was the whole sleep thing. I’m usually someone who gets maybe six hours of sleep because my body is weird now and won’t let me sleep much past about five or six in the morning (I’m usually up earlier) but it seems that sleep is of huge value to baseball players to recover since they play nearly every day for six months and then more if they make the postseason, and that doesn’t include the ramp up in spring training. MLB sends me a morning digest every day and the top article from Castrovince was about how the pitch clock could benefit player health, which is obviously counter to what we thought earlier. This article starts with Brandon Guyer, who you might know as one of the guys the Cubs traded to get Matt Garza way back when, and then he was on the Cleveland team that blew a 3-1 lead (and the Cubs won the World Series, people forget that). Anyway, he has some thoughts on the great benefits of sleep in postgame recovery that you should read about.
The immediate impact on the field of play is that the game would shorten by 20 to 25 minutes or so, and maybe even half an hour if they could do picture-in-picture commercials over mound visits and dead time in between plate appearances, and maybe they can also shorten the ad breaks between innings so players aren’t just waiting for the two minute timer to expire when they’re already set to go. Since games are over three hours long as of last season, shaving 20-30 minutes off that time means less time on your feet, and also more sleep when you get home:
Think, though, about the longer-term impact the removal of that dead time can have on the players themselves. A single game wrapping up 20 or 25 minutes earlier than they are accustomed to does not make much of a difference. But the cumulative effect of shorter games over the course of 162 games could be substantial.From MLB.com
The interesting tidbit was from the minor league data, which actually showed fewer injuries:
When MiLB adopted the pitch timer across all levels last year, some expressed concern that speeding up pitchers would result in an increase in injuries. On the contrary, pitcher injury events decreased 11% from 2021 to 2022, and some players espoused the benefits of the better pace.
“Just from a recovery standpoint, getting back in at a reasonable hour and getting a good night’s sleep is a game-changer,” Dodgers pitching prospect Nick Nastrini said last year. “It could be the difference between being able to play for five years and being able to play for 12. Because there’s the accumulation of getting back at 11:30 [p.m.] and 12:30 [a.m.] and getting into bed by 1 [a.m.] and having to do it all again the next day for 132 games in our season or 162 games in a big league season, it takes a big toll on your body.”
Trevor May has a fun YouTube channel and one of his more recent videos talked about perks of being in MLB, including a nap room. It actually makes sense to fit sleep into the workout regimen because the body needs at least some rest to fully recover, and it’s probably better not to do it in the dugout or bullpen where the benches are probably not the most comfortable. So even with less recovery time on the mound, pitchers and their defense will be on the field less with the pitch clock, and get home earlier, which means more sleep in a comfortable bed, and then they have more opportunities to squeeze in power naps along with their baths in the cryo cubicle or whatever. We likely won’t see a lot of challengers to Cal Ripken’s iron man record due to the knowledge gained regarding the management of work loads, but that should make for a better game for fans and a longer career for players if they’re not succumbing to as many injuries, and perhaps the pitch timer actually helps here, but I guess we’ll wait for the end of the season for someone smarter than me to compile the data and compare to 2022 and prior.
I did take a peek at the Cubs schedule again even after the preview, because I realized I forgot to check the off-days, not taking into account the inevitable rainouts or other natural disasters that will necessitate makeups or double headers. I won’t delve into Spring Training too much because guys don’t play every day anyway, and they don’t do back-to-backs or full games until the end of the Cactus League, so that doesn’t matter too much. However, they do get scheduled off days on March 13, 20, and 29 (the last one is the travel day to get to Opening Day) during which I assume there will still be light workouts unless David Ross just tells them to catch a movie or play golf.
Here’s the regular season breakdown with scheduled games and the off days sprinkled in:
- First “stretch”:
- Opening series – 3/30, then 3/31 off, then 2 more games
- Travel to Cincinnati
- 6 total games, 1 off day in between, then a travel day after (3 total off days, 2 for travel)
- Second stretch includes six home games and then a travel day after (1 off day for travel)
- Third stretch has six games on the West Coast and then immediately coming back for four home games
- 10 total games, two in-stretch travels needed, off day after (1 off day at home)
- Fourth stretch to end March
- 3 at home against Padres
- Then 7 games at Miami and Washington
- Then 6 games at home
- 16 total games, two in-stretch travels needed, then a travel day (1 off day for travel)
- Fifth stretch is an extended road trip
- 6 interleague games requiring one travel stop
- Then an off day for travel
- Then 3 at Philly to end the road trip before a travel day
- 9 total games, two in-stretch travels needed (2 off days for travel)
- Sixth stretch is a homestand to end May with 9 total games, then the travel day (1 off day for travel)
- Seventh stretch to begin June is a long West Coast road trip
- 10 total games with two in-stretch travels needed, back-to-back-to-back
- No off days between series, travel day after (1 off day for travel)
- Eight stretch includes six home games and then three road games immediately after before two travel days to London
- 9 total games stateside with one in-stretch travel needed
- I assume only one of the days is used to fly across the ocean while the other one is where they go get fish and chips and spotted dick in London
- Two games, then they come back to the USA (count 3 off days, at least 2 for travel)
- Ninth stretch before the All-Star Game
- 6 games at home
- Then immediately go on the road for 7 games with one in-stretch travel before the All-Star Break
- The All-Star Break is four full days unless someone on the team actually gets selected (I guess they need at least one representative) but most of the team will get to go fishing unless they also have to do Home Run Derby (we’ll say 4 off days)
- Tenth stretch is a long home stand with 10 total games before their travel day (1 off day for travel, but not really because they’re still in Chicago)
- Eleventh stretch is a home stand sandwiched around two road trips
- Two games on the South Side before going to STL (one in-stretch travel here)
- Immediately back home for 7 games before heading to 3 road games (so two travels to and from)
- That’s 13 total games (1 off day for travel)
- We’ll call this stretch 11.5 because they have to do a quick hop to Toronto and then come back stateside, 3 total games against the Blue Jays and then a travel day to come home (1 off day for travel)
- Stretch 12 is wacky because of the two game set
- Five game home stand with a day off in between (1 off day at home)
- Immediately hop to 7 game road trip (2 in-stretch travels)
- Then they’re home again for 3 before an off day (1 off day for travel)
- Stretch 13 is a long hop too
- Three in Cincinnati starts it off, then travel immediately home
- 7 games at home
- Then six games against the West with a travel day in between and a travel day to get back home (2 off days for travel)
- Stretch 14 is a six game home stand with a travel day after (1 off day for travel)
- Stretch 15 is the final stretch of the season as the Cubs are on the road for the last six games with one in-stretch travel and then they obviously either go home or go to whichever site they need to play the first series at, so they’ll either have four or five months off, or less than a week, it could go either way
That’s 25 days off although only about seven of them are true “you have nothing to do so relax” days because the rest they have to pack and tumble onto planes and buses and stuff. Hope they get plenty of sleep!