Baseball hitters and time out
July 18, 2007 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Why do hitters in baseball call time out so often?

This was sparked by a comment in the thread about hitting a baseball, but I'm not sure if there's a protocol regarding "hijacking" threads with another question (is there?). So here goes:

The biggest thing that makes baseball more and more boring to me in recent years (regular season anyway) is the tendency for hitters to frequently call time out, and the umps are too lenient in giving them... It's not uncommon for a pitcher to be starting his delivery. I've watched baseball for almost 20 years (yikes), and I don't remember it feeling this slow before. Was my attention span as a kid that much better, or are batters' attention spans that much shorter?

I know there's that factor of trying to throw off the pitcher's timing, or the incredible focus needed to hit a major league pitch, but it's become intolerable to me now. Plus they play every day so there's no real urgency until late in the season. Lose a game? There's always tomorrow.

They talk about trying to quicken the pace of a game now, and this seems like the biggest problem. Sure, pitchers do it too, but usually with runners on. Although it's annoying when a pitcher has decided to not pitch, but he waits for the hitter to call time.

One of the things I love about the NHL now is the "hurry-up" faceoffs, and I wish MLB would do something similar, but I've never heard any fans address this before. It's kinda sad seeing baseball become less and less prominent, and seeing Sportscenter have football discussions in early July.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
For the most part it's to dick with the pitcher, or more precisely, the pitcher's concentration. You take any advantage you can as a batter.
posted by plinth at 7:01 AM on July 18, 2007


Right. Some of it is to upset the pitchers rhythm. But part of it could be to check the signs from first or third. Part of it could be re-situation themselves in the batters box. Sometimes they need a second.

As a fan of the Red Sox, a team who has historically had to chase the Yankees and scrap to get the wildcard at the end of the season to make it to the post season, I'm not a fan of the nonchalant attitude of "it's a marathon, not a sprint" Every game counts and holds the same weight.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:03 AM on July 18, 2007


Some of it's superstition. Some guys cross themselves, tighten their left glove, tighten their right glove, and adjust themselves before every pitch.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:09 AM on July 18, 2007


It works both ways. Sometimes pitchers will hold the ball varying lengths of time (particularly if it's excessively hot, cold, windy, or there's a bit of rain falling) to try to get into the batter's head. As a hitter, you are trying to find a place where you are focused and comfortable. Sometimes, when the pitcher unnerves you, the best thing you can do is ask for time out, take a few breaths and reset yourself.
posted by psmealey at 7:09 AM on July 18, 2007


No "answer" but...

Related news story.

A rule from this page:
8.04
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

posted by The Deej at 7:10 AM on July 18, 2007


What plinth said, but it's also part of a whole battery of procedures that ostentatiously slow down the game, and like the poster I wish MLB would terminate them with extreme prejudice. I've been watching baseball for fifty years (my dad took me to my first game at long-gone Griffith Stadium with its peculiar right-field notch); when I started watching, games didn't last much over two hours (and there was no fucking rock music blasting, either, and announcers didn't feel the need to fill every second with blather)—now you're lucky if it's not much over three.

Here's an interesting history of the subject: "A century ago, a professional baseball game took roughly 90 minutes to complete."
posted by languagehat at 7:17 AM on July 18, 2007


A century ago, professional baseball games weren't televised, or even broadcast on radio.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:25 AM on July 18, 2007


If you're set for too long in the batter's box, you can freeze up a bit. Heck, I called time in my modified fastpitch softball league once this year, because I thought the pitcher was dicking with me. But unlike the big league hitters, I only straighten up a readjust while the catcher is returning the ball to the pitcher. When he gets it again, I'm ready to go.

The biggest length of game issue at the MLB level is, of course, the TV commercials. They weren't around 50 years ago adding 2:20 to every half-inning.

Baseball has tried to keep players from going for walks between pitches, and the stopwatch to enforce rule 8.04 has been pulled out once this year. I'd like to see them insist that, barring injury or broken equipment, the batter keep one foot in the box when looking for signs or otherwise gathering himself, just to prevent things from getting nuts.
posted by stevis23 at 7:29 AM on July 18, 2007


They (baseball) occasionally tries to enforce the rules that The Deej posted above. A few weeks ago there was an instance where the umpire called an automatic ball because the pitcher was taking too long. And there's a fairly well known story about Bo Jackson (so obviously this story is a bit old) asking for time and stepping out, only to realize the ump refused to grant him a timeout (of course, Bo proceeded to hit a homerun, because he was a freak of nature). But there are other instances where the home plate ump refuses to call time, and if the batter steps out, then the pitcher just gets to throw a free strike.
posted by inigo2 at 7:40 AM on July 18, 2007


I'm a Tigers fan, and the game this year where they called balls on the pitcher was a Tigers game. The pitcher was warned he was taking to long, and when he continued to do so, they called balls. The fact that the team was so livid is, I think, indicative of the fact that the rule is so rarely invoked.

I watch a lot of games, and there is a big difference between the pitchers who work fast and those that don't. Of course none of this answers the question about why batters take time. Or what happens when the batter takes time and that means the pitcher takes too long to return the ball.

Also, commercials are the devil. Especially now that we have them during the game, too: This CALL TO THE BULLPEN is brought to you by sprint! This question is brought to you buy the cute little Aflac duck! This is the grocery-store play of the game! Ugh.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:39 AM on July 18, 2007


As everyone else has said, the key to baseball is the pitcher/batter headgame. This is just one of the many nuanced elements to it.

The rules added to counteract it are just there to add an extra layer of difficulty and subtlety to it all.
posted by purephase at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2007


the key to baseball is the pitcher/batter headgame.

How does this explain the fact that the length of games has more than doubled while the pitcher/batter headgame has stayed the same since around the Civil War?
posted by languagehat at 10:04 AM on July 18, 2007


I have nothing to back this thought up, but perhaps at bats go deeper into the count now due to hitters being better at fouling off pitches and waiting for a pitch they can do something with?
posted by hector horace at 10:20 AM on July 18, 2007


and there are way more pitch options, which may mean longer signal time for the catcher. ( I could go on all day about the details of baseball)
posted by hector horace at 10:22 AM on July 18, 2007


I'm sure that, as others have said, this tendency is mostly about either superstition or "feel". But in others, it is also about situation and strategy.

Take Gibson in the '88 Series for example. He didn't step out of the box to get into Eckersley's head. He stepped out to assess the count and think about the scouting report. If Gibson doesn't step out of the box, he probably swings over the top of that slider and strikes out or nubs a grounder at the first baseman.
posted by lilnemo at 10:39 AM on July 18, 2007


languagehat: as several folks have pointed out, the delay has much more to do with TV breaks (and increased offense, and pitching changes) than it does with the batter taking time between pitches.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:41 AM on July 18, 2007


A couple of years ago I saw a report on a reaction time study based on simulated at bats. They found that hitters need to take a fairly long time between pitches, to perform at their best. Unfortunately, it is a hard thing to google..

Which is not to dispute the "don't want to wait too long" argument, I'm sure that's true too.
posted by Chuckles at 11:27 AM on July 18, 2007


A couple of years ago I saw a report on a reaction time study based on simulated at bats. They found that hitters need to take a fairly long time between pitches, to perform at their best.

Everyone's different. You need time to get your heart rate down, to relax in your stance, to consider the situation (what's my goal? do I need to move the runner, work the count, take the pitch? am I swinging away? do I guess at pitch selection or location or both? etc.) But too long, and you can freeze up, start second guessing yourself or your instructions and need to reset.
posted by psmealey at 11:40 AM on July 18, 2007


"How does this explain the fact that the length of games has more than doubled while the pitcher/batter headgame has stayed the same since around the Civil War?"

Stayed the same? Is this the Spanish Civil War that you're thinking of?
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 AM on July 18, 2007


as several folks have pointed out, the delay has much more to do with TV breaks (and increased offense, and pitching changes) than it does with the batter taking time between pitches.

That's your opinion, though you're covering all bases by tossing in increased offense and pitching changes to boot. I don't think there's that much more time between innings; there was always a significant break. I'll give you the increased offense, but pitching changes don't happen often enough to add significantly to the length of the game. If umps decided to crack down, you'd be amazed how much they could shrink the games.

Stayed the same? Is this the Spanish Civil War that you're thinking of?


Ha ha, funny! No, it hasn't stayed exactly the same, obviously; the frequency of things like throwing at the batter's skull has gone up and down. But batters and pitchers have been trying to fuck with each other's heads since the overhand pitch was legalized. I repeat, I don't see how this concept even begins to explain a doubling of game times.
posted by languagehat at 1:06 PM on July 18, 2007


I don't mind the commercials so much. At least it's not in the context of the actual game. You can channel surf, walk around, go the bathroom, etc. It's just that during the game itself, I just constantly feel like I'm waiting around. And certainly the smaller strike zone plays a part in longer games, but that doesn't feel as obvious.

I'm still curious as to whether it's been the exact same way in "the old days" or if hitters are just more spoiled now (baseball has done everything else to help them out). I guess taking in an old game on ESPN Classic might answer that. Assuming they still do that sort of thing.

Once in a great while you do get a hitter stepping out without the ump granting time, but they just take it for granted.

And yes, the loud rock music irritates me to no end, and I haven't lived in a baseball market in several years. I don't see how it makes the experience any more exciting. I like my rock music loud, but give me the ballpark organ anytime.

Sportscenter did a story a while back about how it's really gotten out of hand at NBA games (and during actual play), and you had all these journalists and broadcasters lamenting it.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:33 AM on July 19, 2007


And yes, the loud rock music irritates me to no end, and I haven't lived in a baseball market in several years.

OT: Amen to that. As much as I loved when they built SafeCo field, the sight lines and the overall feel of the place, I hated going there because they blasted you with music and idiotic goddamn promotions between extra innings. The only time you could get an actual conversation in with a friend (big part of the reason for going in the first place), was during the game itself. In between innings you can barely hear yourself think.

At least Yankee stadium, as old and uncomfortable as it is, doesn't have a quality PA, so that kind of thing isn't nearly as annoying as it is in the newer ballparks. But the Stadium's days are numbered.

Solution? Go see more minor league games. Go CYCLONES!
/OT
posted by psmealey at 5:10 AM on July 19, 2007


GO CYCLONES!
posted by Kensational at 6:29 PM on July 19, 2007


« Older Ideas for theming an event   |   What is behind the intense interest in the recent... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.