What Is a Pitch Clock in Baseball?

Speeding Up America's Pastime: Inside the MLB's Pitch Clock Revolution
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

If you have ever watched a baseball game, you know that the game can often be quite slow. Fans lose interest pretty quickly. Other sports, like basketball and football, are quick-moving and constantly filled with action. Baseball is a massive drop-off in terms of the pace of play. 

In response to this, the MLB has introduced a pitch clock. It was created to help speed up the game and create more interest in the game itself. Pitchers and batters have formed habits of taking their time in between pitches. With that being said, the rule seems like a good thing for the game of baseball.

Related: How Long is a Baseball Game?

  • In response to the slow pace of play, the MLB has introduced a pitch clock to speed up the game and increase fan interest. It was first tested in the Arizona Fall League in 2014 and then implemented in the Minor Leagues.
  • Pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with no runners on base or 20 seconds with runners on base; batters have 7 seconds to be in the batter’s box and ready to hit.
  • Players have criticized the clock for changing the game, but fans seem to appreciate quicker games.
  • MILB has also adopted a pitch clock; studies indicate it shortened games by 25 minutes. College baseball follows MLB guidelines for their pitch clock.
  • 2023 will be the MLB’s first season using a pitch clock, and players are still adjusting.

History of pitch clock in baseball

The MLB is known for testing new rules and regulations in lower-level leagues. The same thing can be said for the pitch clock. 

The pitch clock is a brand-new thing that just entered the scene. In 2014, the Arizona Fall League was the first to use a pitch clock. After a successful year of usage, the MLB decided to implement the clock in the Minor Leagues for the following season. It has stayed in the minors for a couple of years to ensure its productivity. 

The pitch clock is making its debut this year in the 2023 MLB regular season. The pitch clock was created to speed up the game of baseball. Based on first impressions, the clock seems to be effective in speeding up the game and creating a faster pace of play. 

How does the pitch clock work?

As of 2023, all MLB pitchers will be forced to speed up their game. While pitchers are timed, every batter must also be in the box within a certain amount of time. 

If there are no runners on base, the pitcher has 15 seconds to deliver a pitch. If a runner is on base, the clock is changed to 20 seconds. Once he receives the ball from the catcher, the clock begins. 

If a pitch is not delivered in time, an automatic ball will be added to the count. For example, a 2-1 count would turn into a 3-1. 

For the batter, they have 7 seconds to be in the batter’s box and ready to hit. If they fail to do so, an automatic strike will be added to the count. If the count is 0-2, the batter will be called out on a strikeout. 

Many players and fans have been adamant about the downside of the new pitch clock. Players have complained that the game is no longer the same and that it has been changed forever. 

However, many fans are happy to see the game speed up. With this being said, the pitcher and batter now have no choice but to speed up their process on a pitch-by-pitch basis.

Pitch clock in Major League Baseball

The pitch clock has not been used in a regular season MLB game yet. This will be the first year of the pitch clock for Major League Baseball. 

We got a sneak peek at the new pitch clock in the opening days of spring training. Even though only a few games have been played, we have already seen multiple violations of the pitch clock. 

It can take the players a while to adjust to and be comfortable with the pitch clock. It will be interesting to see how a 162-game season followed by the playoffs turns out with a pitch clock.

Pitch clock in other baseball leagues

In the M.I.L.B. (Minor League Baseball), the pitch clock differs from the one used in the MLB. 

When nobody is on base, the pitcher has 14 seconds to deliver the next pitch. With runners on base, the pitcher has 18 seconds. This is in comparison to the 15 and 20-second clocks in the MLB. The clock was used in the MILB to begin its initiation into the game. 

A recent study from ESPN found that the pitch clocks in the MILB reduced the length of games by up to 25 minutes. Studies like this one encouraged the MLB to introduce a pitch clock at the highest level there is. 

College baseball has added a pitch clock as well. However, they follow the MLB clock instead of the MILB. Pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with no one on base. They have 20 seconds when there are runners on base.

Controversy surrounding the pitch clock

Since its introduction, criticism of the new pitch clock has been expected. 

Players have complained that the pitch clock changes the game forever, and not in a good way. The clock forces everyone to speed up their routine. 

Fielders have to become accustomed to less time between pitches. This extended amount of time was usually used to relay signs and play calls between the defense. That time period is now shortened and even somewhat eliminated. 

Pitchers are now also forced to speed up everything about their game. The time between pitches was typically used as a mental reset and to prepare for the next pitch. Pitchers are now on a time limit. 

Although there are many cons, there are also some pros. The game is now being played much quicker than before a pitch clock. TV ratings are increasing, and the general public is showing more interest in baseball. This new pitch clock seems to add to the excitement level of the game.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the pitch clock start?

The pitch clock begins once the pitcher receives the ball back from the catcher. Once he catches the ball, the clock starts.

How long is the pitch clock in MLB?

With no runners on base, pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch. With runners on base, pitchers have 20 seconds to deliver a pitch.

Can the pitcher see the pitch clock?

In most ballparks, a pitch clock is placed directly behind home plate so the pitcher has a clear view of it. However, some fields only have the pitch clock on the scoreboard in the outfield. This forces pitchers to have more of an internal clock.

What happens if a pitcher violates the pitch clock?

If a pitcher violates the pitch clock, one ball is immediately added to the count. If there are three balls and the pitcher violates the clock, the batter is given a base on balls (aka a walk).


The pitch clock is something new to the game of baseball. It will take a while for players and fans to get used to this new addition. 

However, it is proven to be efficient at its purpose, with games already being played at a much faster pace. This may be music to the ears for fans that want to watch an exciting game. But players are not too happy about having to speed up everything in their routine. 

We will soon see the first entire MLB season with a pitch clock. How will it go?