A week into MLB Spring Training, the talk of the league has been the newly-implemented pitch clock. Game times have been cut by more than 20 minutes per game from a comparable point last season, and violations have declined as players have gotten more accustomed to the clock.

Networks airing games this spring have also been forced to deal with the pitch clock. The clock has been shown on the screen in different ways – integrated into the scorebug, only shown when the on-field clock is in the camera shot or thrown into the corner. When the clock shows up also varies based on the networks, with some showing it constantly and some only bringing it onto the screen when it ticks below a certain amount.

ESPN has opted to integrate the pitch clock into their scorebug, extending the graphic to include the clock. Additionally, the network is showing the clock at all times, rather than only after a certain amount of time.

Decisions involving the pitch clock have not been easy.

“It’s actually more complicated and has been more arduous than you would think,” said ESPN Vice President of Production Phil Orlins. “We are pleased that most people think it looks like what we might have planned. It hasn’t been that simple.”

Here’s a look at ESPN’s pitch clock graphic from Thursday’s Phillies-Red Sox broadcast.

When the regular season begins, ESPN’s graphic will look a bit different. That’s because so far in Spring Training, MLB hasn’t been able to provide the necessary data to networks. As a result, ESPN and other networks are going old school with a camera shot of the clock rather than a graphic.

“Unfortunately, we’re not getting the data from MLB until there are like seven seconds on the clock,” Orlins told me. “I guess there’s some internal debate at MLB about when they want to give it to us or how much they want to show.”

Not having the data early enough creates an issue, as batters are issued violations if they’re not ready with eight seconds left on the clock.

“In my mind, at least at this point in time, it’s just mandatory that it has to be in before the eight-second mark,” said Orlins.

Assuming ESPN will be able to get the data, their pitch clock graphic will be placed in the same position, turning yellow when the clock reaches four or five seconds and a notice popping up in the event of a violation.

The pitch clock will be part of ESPN’s MLB broadcasts all season, even if violations drop off later in the year, though the timing of it being on-screen could change. The network also doesn’t plan on moving the graphic, given its somewhat natural integration with the scorebug.

“I don’t see a day of not having it at all. There have been discussions about putting it [virtually] on the backstop or back of the pitcher’s mound. I don’t see us doing that,” Orlins said. “Would we be fine with bringing it in at 10 rather than 15? Yeah, I’d be fine with 10 versus 15. Does it really make it easier for the viewer, less obtrusive? I don’t know.”

With all of the StatCast data available, ESPN is mindful of providing too much information to viewers. For instance, the network will not be tracking pitcher disengagements, another MLB rule change, on their scorebug this season.

“You don’t want too much superfluous stuff. You don’t want to make it too difficult to read,” stated Orlins. “What feels comfortable in 2023 might have felt very uncomfortable in 1995 when we did our first scoreboard.”

Here’s an example of that 1995 scorebug from a Mariners-Angels broadcast.

Ultimately, the pitch clock itself isn’t going anywhere. This season, you’ll probably see it displayed in various ways across different networks, as we previously mentioned. As the weeks and months roll along, networks should be better equipped to present the pitch clock to viewers, ensuring there’s less confusion about what’s going on with the clock on the field. Early on, ESPN seems to be on the right track with the clock, with a clear plan in place for implementation once the regular season starts later this month.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.