Batter Pace

Many commenters to my post yesterday and to David’s original post asked about batter pace. Obviously batters can control the time between pitches (pace) by stepping out of the box often and by spending lots of time out of the box when they do (i.e. step out). Also, based on the results from yesterday’s post, the pace slows for hitters in two-strike counts and when there are runners on, who have a high strikeout rate (because they face more two-strike counts), and who bat with men on base. So I wanted to see how much variability there is in batter pace and take a quick look at the leader board.

I was particularly interested in how the variation in batter pace compared to that in pitcher pace. Is the range as big as for pitchers? I took the 200 starting pitchers and 200 batters with the most pitches in 2010 and ranked them by pace (for batters I took just pitches seen against starters to make the comparison more direct).

If the line were perfectly horizontal there would be no variability in pace (all batters or pitchers would have the same pace). So the closer to horizontal the less variability. Across the first 100 players the batter and pitcher lines are almost right on top of one another, but after that the pitchers fall off faster. So there is a little less variability in batters, and specifically there are not batters with as fast a pace as the fastest pitchers. So pitchers probably have more control at keeping the game going as fast as possible.

But there is still considerable variability in batter pace. Here are the five fastest and slowest (numbers differ from the graph because the graph was just for batters against starters and this is for overall numbers).

Carlos Pena 29.1
Chase Utley 27.1
Robinson Cano 26.7
Ryan Braun 26.7
Bill Hall 26.6
Edwin Encarnacion 20.1
Felipe Lopez 20.0
J.J. Hardy 19.9
Ichiro Suzuki 19.9
Nyjer Morgan 19.3

These names are probably not terribly surprising based on the results from yesterday: there is a slower pace on two-strike counts, when runners are on, and when relievers are pitching. The guys at the top of the walk a lot, often have plate appearances with runners on, and probably face more relievers than that average batter. The bottom includes guys who don’t walk much, and because of their team and place in the batting order rarely bat with players on base.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

10 Responses to “Batter Pace”

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  1. BJsWorld says:

    Shocking that Vlad isn’t on the bottom list.

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    • phoenix says:

      he swings at everything, so he gets into a lot of two strike counts, which means longer between pitches. also he comes up with men on base a lot, so again the pitcher slows down. so that evens out with his free swinging.

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  2. AK707 says:

    Is batter pace on player pages?

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  3. Krog says:

    Now A’s fans know why Beane picked up E5. Beane wants shorter at bats so that he can spend more time watching soccer!

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  4. Locke says:

    Would’ve bet Swisher to be top 5 slowest.

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  5. Cidron says:

    …. memories of “the human rain delay” at the plate. Of course, I am meaning good ole Mike Hargrove, while he was playing. Of course, this also might belong in the article about nicknames.

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  6. Hejuk says:

    I wonder if you controlled for situation (count, runners), how much of a spread there would be…

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    • Dave Allen says:

      Ok here is try at controlling for situation. I just took pitches from plate appearances against starters, no runners on base and only counted pitches when there were not two strikes. I think this should be fairly good at controlling for situation. The numbers are lower (as expected), but there is still a big range:

      24.1 Adam Lind
      23.9 Carlos Pena
      21.9 Ryan Braun
      21.7 Chase Utley
      20.9 David Ortiz

      14.9 Austin Jackson
      14.8 Jose Tabata
      14.7 Asdrubal Cabrera
      14.7 Jason Heyward
      14.6 J.J Hardy

      Pretty similar list at the top, though a few new names and our friend David Ortiz makes an appearance. The bottom of the list has some surprising names, with lots of rookies. Maybe young players are less likely to step out of the box as much?

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  7. badenjr says:

    Could we use the pitcher’s pace to better estimate how hard a pitcher is being worked? There’s a belief that some pitches are more stressful than others during a game, so sticking to a strict pitch limit is undesirable. I’d also suggest that pitchers slow down during particularly stressful situations. Can we use this pace data to account for the stress of the situation and better assess when it is time to pull the starter?

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