NEW YORK – Batting average for left-handed hitters was up 13 percentage points through the first full month of the season, an impact of baseball's new rule changes.
The biggest noticeable impact has been when games are ending. Average time of a nine-inning game is 2 hours, 37 minutes, down from 3:05 at the same point last year.
Clubhouse staff and players are getting home while their families are still awake.
“It definitely makes life easier,” Cleveland's Shane Bieber, the 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner, said Monday.
Boosted by new rules designed to speed play and increase action, stolen bases rose 40% to their highest level in nearly a quarter-century and scoring increased by 1.1 runs per game.
Pitch clock violations averaged 0.74, and the New York Mets topped the major leagues with 17 while the Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit tied for the fewest with four each. Of 313 clock violations, 204 were by pitchers, 91 by batters and four by catchers.
In addition, there were five penalties for batter timeouts, eight for pitcher disengagements and one for violation the shirt restrictions.
“The data looks really promising so far,” Theo Epstein, the former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive who consulted on the innovations, said Monday. “The game had been veering in a direction where the only way to score was hope for a walk and a homer. And now we’re seeing with an increased batting average on balls in play, the increased rate of stolen-base attempts the improved success rate of stolen bases a lot of rallies that start with a single, then you have a stolen base and then you have another single and there’s a run. And that’s more entertaining.”
Limits on infield shifts, a pitch clock and larger bases were implemented in an attempt to counter the impact of the Analytics Era suffocation of offense.
The big league batting average was .248 through 425 games. Lefties hit .242, up from .229 through April last year. Righties are hitting .250, an increase from .234.
Lefty batting average on balls in play went up nine points to .292 and righty BABIP rose seven points to .302.
New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo thinks he may have gotten 10 additional hits already.
“I'm just throwing a number out there," he said. “You hit the ball well, you obviously want to be rewarded.”
Runs have increased to 9.2 from 8.1.
Stolen bases average 1.4 per game — with a 79.2% success rate, up from 1.0 steals and a 75.5% success rate. The average is the highest since 1999, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the success rate the highest on record.
Houston third baseman Alex Bregman has noticed the speedier games after foul balls.
“You got to like run back to your position and you’re out of breath, ready to go for the next player,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the pressure-packed playoff games are played at rapid-fire speed like that.”
Statcast's time between pitches, which starts 6 seconds ahead of the clock, ranged between 11.1 seconds (Cooper Criswell) and 19.0 (Andrew Bellatti), down from last year's 12.6 (Brent Sutter) to 25.8 (Giovanny Gallegos and Jonathan Loáisiga).
Michael Kopech dropped from 21.1 to 13.2, Tanner Houck from 20.3 to 13.1 and Shohei Ohtani to 21.7 to 15.3.
“How many hours during the course of the rest of my career is that going to save?” said Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, who cut from 17.6 to 13.9.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.