While current players are griping over the potential pace of play changes for 2018, there is at least one ex-player who thinks it will make a positive impact on the game: former Mets catcher Todd Hundley.
“As a catcher, you like it,” Hundley explained USA Today’s Ted Berg about the proposed 20-second pitch clock during his panel at the 2018 Queens Baseball Convention. “The worst thing the pitcher can do for the infielders and outfielders is be slow. They hate having pitchers take so much time between pitches.”
From Hundley’s perspective, the sped-up pace will help keep the fielders engaged, which he believes will improve defense across the league.
“It actually helps the catcher, because it’s the catcher’s job to keep the pace of the game going,” Hundley said.
Additionally, I'd assume that it makes a catcher's job far easier. Without game pace to be concerned about, catchers can now focus their mental energy on other aspects of the game, including the pitcher’s game plan and preventing stolen bases.
While there doesn’t appear to be any way to categorically prove that a quicker pace-of-play by way of a pitch clock will improve defense, it logically makes sense. Fielders can sometimes wait 45 seconds-to-one minute between pitches, and if given that much time between any game action, even professional athletes can become distracted.
If a player is even 10 percent less mentally prepared on defense, I’d have to imagine that lends itself to more frequent fielding miscues. And for players who overthink their responsibilities in upcoming plays, a quicker pace-of-play could improve their performance as well, allowing them to rely more on their innate reactions instead of the overthought plan in their head.
Whether or not a faster pace-of-play actually improves the quality of the game is certainly up for debate. However, if this upcoming change does indeed improve defense, fewer errors could perhaps draw viewers to a cleaner product, which would give Commissioner Rob Manfred what he is aiming for, just not in the way he had planned. If Hundley is right, baseball fans may get to see a noticeably crisper sport in 2018.