MLB's strict pitch clock enforcement is 'frustrating' Max Scherzer

ByJoon Lee ESPN logo
Thursday, June 1, 2023

NEW YORK -- Mets pitcher Max Scherzer is not happy with the strict enforcement of the pitch clock.

Before the fifth inning of Thursday's 4-2 victoryover the Phillies at Citi Field, Scherzer got into an intense conversation with plate umpire Tripp Gibson over enforcement of the pitch clock. MLB rules state there is two minutes between innings for local broadcasts, with pitchers allowed eight warmup pitches. But with Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez making the last out of the bottom of the fourth, delaying his arrival behind home plate as he needed time to put on catching gear, Scherzer could not finish his warmup pitches before Gibson signaled for the start of the inning, prompting the discussion between pitcher and umpire.

"Why can't the umpires have discretion in that situation to allow eight normal warmup pitches?" Scherzer said. "Why do we have to be so anal about this to have the clock shoved in everybody's face and try to step out every little second that's going into the game?"

According to Scherzer, when he asked Gibson why he couldn't finish his warmup pitches, the umpire said the league would "get mad at him" if he did not strictly enforce the clock. While MLB previously implemented a clock to measure break times between innings in 2015, they were not strictly enforced, giving umpires leeway to let pitchers warm up longer even if the time on the clock expired.

That has changed in 2023, according to Scherzer.

"It's situations like this that really are frustrating not only for pitchers, players, but even umpires," Scherzer said. "That's what Tripp says. Tripp is handcuffed. Why is Tripp handcuffed to not allow something normal, a normal routine. Why can't Tripp make that call?"

Scherzer said Gibson wanted him to speak out about the issue publicly because the umpires want discretion to give players more time in situations like Thursday, when Alvarez came out later than usual after making the final out of an inning.

"They want to allow the game to be normal," Scherzer said. "The umpires are frustrated that the game is not normal, that we're living and dying by the clock. I said I would speak for him. We're way too far thinking about the clock in every single situation instead of letting players have their normal routines."

Throughout the season, Scherzer has had a love-hate relationship with the pitch clock. In February, he described it as a "cat-and-mouse" game that gave pitchers power to dictate pace.

"Really, the power the pitcher has now -- I can totally dictate pace," Scherzer said at the time. "The rule change of the hitter having only one timeout changes the complete dynamic of the hitter-and-pitcher dynamic. I love it."

The future Hall of Famer tested the boundaries of the rules during spring training, getting called for a balk in his second preseason start in March after he started throwing a pitch to Washington Nationals outfielder Victor Robles the moment umpire Jeremy Riggs reset the clock.

"We have to figure out where the limit is," Scherzer said in March.

In Thursday's start, Scherzer went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out nine and walking one. The outing marked the third straight quality start for Scherzer, who has a 3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 5-2 record in nine starts this season, good for 0.8 bWAR.

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