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Rob Manfred: MLB Eyeing Pitch Clock, Robot Umpires in Future Seasons

In a lengthy series of interviews with ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addressed numerous issues regarding the future of the game.

Among the chief topics discussed? Pace of play.

Manfred said he fully supports the use of pitch clocks and some form of robot umpires in the near future—as soon as 2024.

The idea of a pitch clock would give a pitcher 14 seconds between pitches with the bases empty, and 18 or 19 seconds with runners on. Pitch clocks have already been used in the minor leagues this year, and Manfred says an “ideal” average time for an MLB game would be two hours and 30 minutes.

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That would be over a half our faster than this year’s average game length of three hours and five minutes, which is only five minutes faster than last season’s mark that set an all-time record high. The idea of a pitch clock has been met with apprehension from players around the league.

On the topic of robot umpires, Manfred says there are multiple proposals being considered. One is for the automated system to call every pitch and transmit balls and strikes to the home plate umpire using an ear piece. Another is for managers to be able to challenge balls and strikes via replay review. Despite his whole-hearted support of some form of robot umpires, Manfred insists that any adoption of an automated system should not be viewed as an indictment on umpires’ performance.

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