Outfielder Lee Jung-Hoo of the Kiwoom Heroes runs to first base in the bottom of the fifth inning during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between Kiwoom Heroes and Lotte Giants at Gocheok Skydome on April 02, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. The KBO will have a pitch clock and an ABS system for the 2024 season, but Jung, a former KBO MVP, will likely be posted for MLB organizations to sign this offseason. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League in South Korea announced Thursday it would introduce an automated ball-strike system and a pitch clock for the 2024 season.
The main goals of the new rules are to speed up games and ensure that umpires always make correct calls. All 10 KBO team presidents were in attendance to approve the changes at a board of directors meeting on Wednesday.
An automated ball-strike system, or ABS, tracks pitches and determines if they are a ball or a strike. Once the system registers the correct call, the home plate umpire is told which call to make through an earpiece. All 30 Triple-A stadiums in the United States used ABS in 2023, but in June, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated the system is unlikely to be used in Major League Baseball in 2024.
The KBO Futures League is the KBO’s minor league, and has been using ABS since the 2020 season. The KBO feels optimistic about the results thus far.
“The ABS system has accomplished a precision and consistency of ball-strike calls,” the KBO said in a statement per the Korea Times. “We have also reduced the time it takes for the calls to be relayed to the umpires. By introducing the ABS to the KBO, it will ensure fair play for pitchers and hitters alike.”
The KBO also plans to use a pitch clock for the 2024 season. The Korea Times reports it will resemble the one Major League Baseball uses. Currently, pitchers in MLB have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners on. A ball is called if the pitcher has not entered his delivery before the clock runs out.
The Korea Times also reports that the KBO has extensively researched the MLB pitch clock and will not undergo any testing in the KBO Futures League before implementing the rule change. A pitch clock was used in minor league baseball starting in 2015, but MLB did not adopt the rule until the 2023 season.
“We also looked into the time between pitches, the average number of pickoff throws, and the time it took for hitters to get ready in the box,” the KBO league office said. “We have concluded that we would need our own set of rules that would suit the KBO the best.”
According to the Yonhap News Agency, the average duration of a KBO game without a pitch clock in 2023 is three hours and 12 minutes. With the pitch clock, the average MLB game lasted approximately two hours and 39 minutes in 2023, according to David Adler of MLB.com. Adler reports that league-wide MLB attendance increased by 9.6 percent, from 64,556,658 fans in 2022 to 70,747,365 in 2023.
With the new rule changes, the KBO hopes to see a positive correlation between average game time and increased attendance in 2024, similar to Major League Baseball in 2023.