Baseball games have indeed been finishing faster this year.
The average nine-inning game took 2 hours, 56 minutes through Sunday night’s action. That’s down from 3:03 through the first seven full days of the 2014 season, according to STATS.
“I have found a very cooperative attitude among the players, and I think that will serve us well over the long season,” new baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday in Toronto.
It’s hard to say how much of that decrease is because of Major League Baseball’s new emphasis on pace of play. Scoring has been down, as well, so that could be part of the reason games are taking less time to play.
Baseball’s new rules require hitters to keep a foot in the batter’s box, with some exceptions. A clock now times inning breaks and pitching changes.
“I don’t think there have been any significant issues that have popped up to where umpires have been having to play the policeman,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “I think everybody sees the clock and therefore there’s some understanding just because of the clock, and hopefully that’s all it takes.”
Boston outfielder Shane Victorino says the changes are welcome.
“The biggest thing I see is the rhythm of the game,” Victorino said. “You look up at the clock and you know, ‘OK, I’ve got about 45 seconds. I have two more throws and then we’re ready to go.’”
Manfred said “I don’t have any time of game target” and his goal is that by late in the season “the game just seems a little crisper, it moves along a little better.”
Here are a few other developments from the season’s first week:
ROYAL ENCORE: Kansas City’s unexpected run to the World Series last year captivated fans across the country, but there was plenty of skepticism about whether the Royals could reach the playoffs again in 2015. Well, Kansas City is 6-0 after three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels — and that stellar bullpen hasn’t allowed a run yet.
CLOSING IT DOWN: Jason Grilli probably won’t make anyone forget Craig Kimbrel, but that doesn’t mean he can’t protect late leads for Atlanta. Grilli has converted all three of his save chances without allowing a hit.
WELCOME BACK: Matt Harvey threw six scoreless innings for the New York Mets in a win over Washington on Thursday. Harvey struck out nine in his first start since having Tommy John surgery in October 2013.
Only three times last season did a pitcher for the Mets finish with at least six scoreless innings and at least nine strikeouts. Jacob deGrom did it twice and Bartolo Colon did it once.
FANTASY FOCUS: Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Yasmany Tomas of Arizona are both in the minor leagues, leaving fantasy players eagerly awaiting their promotion. For now, let’s check in on a couple players who are standing in for them at the big league level.
Cubs third baseman Mike Olt homered Saturday in a win over Colorado, although he had to leave that game after being hit on the right wrist. He appeared as a pinch-hitter Sunday.
Tomas got off to a sluggish start in spring training and struggled at times playing third base. Right now it’s Jake Lamb making a bid for more time at third — he drove in seven runs in his first two games this season for the Diamondbacks.
WIN FOR WIN: Detroit has matched Kansas City’s 6-0 start atop the AL Central. The Tigers didn’t face their first deficit until the sixth inning of their fifth game — and they immediately re-took the lead against Cleveland in the seventh that day.
The last time two teams in the same division started 6-0 or better was in 1992, according to STATS. Toronto and the New York Yankees both won their first six games that year, although the AL East rivals were never 6-0 at the same time. Toronto was 6-0 and New York was 5-0 before the Yankees handed the Blue Jays their first loss of the season.