The future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer is using the new rules to his advantage.

A number of new rules are in place for the 2023 season and beyond as part of Major League Baseball’s continual endeavour to increase the pace of its games. Most significantly, a pitch clock is now in effect, as are restrictions on the number of pickoffs throws and batter timeouts.

Matt Snyder, one of our own, recently outlined how the new mandates will work:

Image Credit: Sporting News

The timer counts down 15 seconds when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when a runner is on the ground.

The clock begins when the pitcher catches the ball from the catcher and continues until the pitcher starts his delivery (not when the ball is released).
With at least eight seconds remaining on the clock, the batter must step into the batter’s box and be ready to hit.
Violations by the pitcher result in an automatic ball, while violations by the batter result in an automatic strike.
A batter is allowed one timeout for each plate appearance.
Each hitter receives two “disengagements” from the pitcher. It’s either a step-off or a pick-off attempt. A baulk would follow from a third disengagement. The disengagement count is reset if a runner advances via a stolen base, baulk, wild pitch, or passed ball.

The general assumption is that the burden of these new restrictions rests primarily on the pitcher. Still, no other than Mets right-hander Max Scherzer – a three-time Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer still at the peak of his game at 38 – sees them as an opportunity. During his first outing of the spring, Scherzer had the following to say about the new restrictions, according to ESPN:

“With the power the pitcher now possesses, I can completely determine the pace. The hitter now has only one timeout, which changes the entire dynamic of the hitter-and-pitcher interaction. It’s fantastic.”

Max Scherzer claimed that he changes his tempo even as the pitch clock ticks: “There is another layer here to be able to interfere with the hitter’s timing.”

To conclude, Max Scherzer plays the stall game with what’s left of the pitch clock, and he does so long enough to compel Adams to use his only timeout of the plate appearance. The pitch is on its way nearly as soon as Adams has his second foot in the box and his gaze fixed on Max Scherzer. This is made feasible by Scherzer’s choice not to take a timeout and instead remain ready to begin his delivery.

This is excellent news for those concerned that the new laws limiting pace will result in such micro-tactics. The fact that someone of Scherzer’s stature is doing it ensures that other pitchers will take notice and may try to “work the clock” in the same way.