Major League Baseball Drives Faster Cycle Times

Cycle time is an essential part of operations management.

Using an industrial analogy like repetitive automobile manufacturing, cycle time can be defined in two contexts: the time it takes to perform one task, such as installation of the hood, or the cumulative time it takes to perform all tasks as a product makes its way to completion, such as a completed automobile.

Companies often seek to improve cycle time to increase output (inventory), support more sales, reduce costs, and capture more market share. Improved (i.e., faster) cycle times can be achieved through a number of different initiatives either individually or as a muti-tiered approach, including additional employee training, implementation of incentive plans, reduced bottlenecks, investments in new equipment, and upgraded technology.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is also focusing on faster cycle times in terms of reducing the amount of time to complete an average ballgame, such that the “National Pastime” does not actually take so much time to complete. Using a pitch clock, the goal is to enhance the overall customer experience, drawing more fans to the games.

Previously, batters had nearly unlimited time to “step out of the box” (or off the mound in the case of pitchers). Per the MLB website, a record was set in 2018 with one at-bat which took 13 minutes over 21 pitches.

The new rule includes a 30-second time limit between pitches. After receiving the ball, pitchers must begin their motion within 15 seconds. The offensive player (i.e., batter) must be ready to hit by the time the clock reaches eight seconds.

The new rule is being used in pre-season games this Spring, with positive results so far. Game time has been reduced by more than twenty minutes on average.

While players, coaches, and umpires are still adjusting to the new rule, faster games could lead to higher attendance and improved overall fan experience. It could also lead to more offensive-oriented (i.e., higher scoring) ballgames, which many fans prefer.

Video Spotlight:  

This post is based on the Beacon Journal article, MLB pitch clock will make games faster in 2023, but it’s a big adjustment for all involved, by Ryan Lewis, March 3, 2023, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1. What are benefits of a faster cycle time for MLB ballgames?

Guidance: One benefit is possibly higher attendance for MLB and individual teams, which leads to higher revenue (from more individual ticket sales) and higher profitability (given many game-day costs are largely fixed). Another benefit is more sports enthusiasts gaining interest in MLB given the lower time commitment. Rule changes may lead to higher offensive-oriented (i.e., higher scoring) ballgames which many fans prefer. And, finally, more fans may stay for the entire ballgame as opposed to leaving early (with the potential for a positive impact on concessions & team merchandise sales).

2. What are costs or issues for MLB in implementing the new rule?

Guidance: It requires an additional investment in new technologies for displaying pitch clocks throughout all MLB stadiums. Also, players, coaches, and umpires need additional training, to ensure adherence of and consistency in the new rule (there are team penalties for violating pitch clocks).

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March 27, 2023 Newsletter
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