If you noticed this weekend’s games with Georgia Tech seemed to go a little faster than a typical college baseball game … that’s because they were.
On average, fifth-ranked Clemson’s three-game sweep of the Yellow Jackets this past weekend took just 2 hours and 45 minutes per game. The Tigers’ other 13 games this year have taken an average of 3 hours and 7 minutes to complete.
What’s the difference? Why did this weekend’s games go so much faster than the previous 13?
This past off-season, the Atlantic Coast Conference implemented a new trail project in regards to speeding up games. In conference games only, teams are allowed to use a communication device that allows the pitching coach to communicate his pitching calls to the catchers.
Clemson (15-1) tried it out for the first time this past weekend and used it in all three wins over the Yellow Jackets.
“I love it,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said to The Clemson Insider. “I think it helps a lot in being on the same page with the catcher, but it also speeds the game up. There is no question, being able to verbalize what we want the pitch to be, has definitely helped speed up the game and the flow of the game. We noticed guys are not missing as many signs.”
The new communication device is similar to what the NFL uses when offensive coordinators call in plays to their quarterbacks. The catcher has an ear piece, while pitching coach Andrew See calls in the pitches from a walkie talkie.
The objective is to speed up the game by getting the calls to the pitcher must faster. It also helps limit the number of mound visits because See can just send his catcher out there to communicate something to the pitcher instead.
“Since we have had it, it has sped it up quite a bit,” See said. “It gives you about ten to fifteen more seconds in between pitches and allows you to communicate with mound visits. You can kind of decrease that a little bit. You can send the catcher out there to bide some time for the pitchers to warm up in the bullpen.
“If you send the catcher out there, you can relay back ‘that is all we need, go ahead and head back.’”
Clemson catcher Kyle Wilkie, who caught in two of the three games against Georgia Tech, likes the new communication piece.
“It sped up the game a lot, and Coach See can tell me the things he needed to tell me,” Wilkie said. “Being able to give the next pitch or number on our card or calling system helped way more quickly than him giving me signs.
“I like it a lot once I got used to it. I thought it sped the game up a lot and helped our pitching staff out.”
It definitely helped Clemson’s pitchers as the Tigers allowed just seven combined runs in the three games. Friday starter Jacob Hennessy benefited the most, going seven innings where he allowed just two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in a game that took 2 hours and 28 minutes to complete.
“A catcher has to be locked in for one hundred and fifty pitches and if he screws up one sign that can cost us,” Lee said. “With the ear piece now, they are on the same page. It is a lot easier to get the signs in to make sure he gets the signs right, so that communication is a lot better.”
And the game is a whole lot faster as a result. See thinks the process speeds up 10 to 15 seconds faster in between pitches.
“It definitely is faster,” Lee said. “How much faster? I’m not sure, but if you look at kind of the average… It has to cut the game time average down, I don’t know, maybe ten to fifteen to twenty minutes. I have not looked at it, but it seems to be much faster.”