Hey all, I've been a lurker for a bit now but some of these FPF prompts have made me want to chime in.
The pace-of-play initiatives have been something that I have mostly been vehemently against, though I do agree that there needs to be something done to get it closer to the 2/2.5 hour game it used to be. So here's my thoughts:
1. Limit mid-inning pitching changes: Allow only, say, 2 mid-inning pitching changes per team for the first 9 innings of the game. In extra innings, 1 mid-inning pitching change per every 2 innings. This would decrease the aggravating dead time, and at the penultimate parts of the game when the viewer interest is the highest. The game would call back a little bit to the time before micromanaging. Of course, there's still a place for specialists or other needed relief changes, but the manager needs to strategically decide when the right time to use them. It also incentivizes for relievers to be brought in at the start of the inning (there would be no penalty for that). There can be exceptions for injuries, but maybe the team can't use that pitcher for a few days or something in order to prevent faking.
2. Eliminate/ minimize time between pitching changes: Make the pitcher warm up in the bullpen, not again on the field. Why do we need a commercial break for that? Allow the pitcher 1-2 pitches on the mound to become comfortable with it, and then get started again. Also, drive pitchers to the field via golf cart to make it quicker. If you really want to get a commercial in during that time, you could get a 20-30 second spot in, but the full commercial break isn't necessary, and is perhaps one of the most off-putting parts of the game to viewers.
All in all, I feel like the changes that are actually being proposed/enacted (like the IBB rule) have minimal impact to the actual pace, but substantial impact to the fan perception. We see these things tearing apart the character of the game, while anything that would touch the commercial time (the real cause for the increase) goes unaddressed. I think the MLB needs to make a choice: should it be catering to the networks' interests or the fans' interests? Thus far it has been the networks, but you ultimately can't please both, and by continuing in this way, they eventually won't have the viewers to even keep the networks happy.