As MLB continues to tinker with pace-of-play initiatives, former major-league pitcher Jim Kaat has a simpler but more radical fix in mind: Reduce the conventional length of games from nine innings to seven.
"Seven is the new nine," Kaat told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal in an interview published Friday.
Kaat's MLB career lasted two-and-a-half decades, and the defensively gifted left-hander earned 16 Gold Glove Awards along the way. The 79-year-old, who's currently a special assistant to the Minnesota Twins, argues that his proposal of a shorter, quicker game would give more importance to starting pitchers.
"Go five (innings)," Kaat said, "and then turn it over to the setup man and closer."
He also suggests a limit of nine or 10 pitchers on each team's staff, which would open up room on the bench and essentially do away with middle-inning relievers.
Managers have already begun to limit the workload of their typical five-man rotations, emphasizing the importance of relievers and a deep bullpen. Kaat believes that shorter games would allow four-man rotations to become the norm, maximizing the value of baseball's best starters. This would help keep fans entertained, Kaat says, and limit the abnormally high amount of home runs.
"It's become a home run derby, with more strikeouts," Kaat said. "The fans and players deserve better."