Hey Red Sox: Work Faster

This morning, I did a quick story for the Wall Street Journal on pace between pitches. So far, the Cleveland Indians look like the stars of working quickly, as all five of their starters have taken less than 20 seconds between pitches. Derek Lowe and Justin Masterson actually rank second and third in baseball in pace so far this year, behind only Roy Halladay and his Two Hours Of Doom approach.

You know who the slowest working pitching staff in baseball is to this point of 2012? The Boston Red Sox, who have taken an average of 24.6 seconds between pitches this year. You know who was the slowest working pitching staff in 2011? The Red Sox. 2010? The Red Sox. 2009? The Red Sox. 2008? The Red Sox.

The last time that Boston didn’t have the slowest working pitching staff in baseball was 2007. That year, they had the second slowest staff, getting edged out by the Yankees by 0.3 seconds per pitch.

You know who the slowest working starting pitchers in baseball have been since 2007? Josh Beckett (25.6 seconds between pitches), Daisuke Matsuzaka (25.4), and Clay Buchholz (25.2). They are the only three starters in the sport to take more than 25 seconds between pitches, and they all pitch for the Red Sox.

Even shifting to relievers, where there’s more annual turnover and where we can see a broader selection of pitchers, we find the Red Sox as the most deliberate group in baseball, and it’s not even close. Since 2007, their relievers have taken an average of 25.7 seconds between pitches (relievers work slower in general, so the numbers are higher here), a full 1.6 seconds slower than the next slowest bullpen. The slowest working reliever in baseball over that span? Jonathan Papelbon (tied with Rafael Betancourt) at 31.0 seconds between pitches.

The Red Sox have had 51 pitchers throw at least 10 innings for them over the last 5+ years, and exactly two of those 51 have averaged fewer than 20 seconds between pitches. These heroes are Tim Wakefield (18.8 seconds) and Scott Atchison (19.9 seconds). The other 49 guys who have taken the mound have all been no faster than average in time between pitches, and they’ve ranged all the way down to the absolute slowest workers in the sport.

This isn’t a small sample size. With nearly 50 pitchers over 5+ years, and consistent finishes as the slowest working team in baseball, this sure has all the earmarks of an organizational philosophy. And it’s an annoying one.

Red Sox games already take a long time because their hitters take a lot of pitches and score a lot of runs. At least that philosophy can be directly related to offensive success, and is an area where you can see the positive results of taking a deliberate approach. But, it’s not like the Red Sox pitchers have been world beaters, or that there’s some obvious advantage they’re gaining by having their pitchers spend a bunch of time walking around the mound and scratching themselves between pitches.

Major League Baseball has made a lot of efforts over the last 10 to 15 years to reduce some of the delays in action in the sport. Perhaps they’ve missed the most obvious step – contract the Red Sox. That would fix an awful lot of problems, and rid us of Bobby Valentine‘s media circus at the same time. Win-win!

Editor’s Note: I’m kidding. Sort of.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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magdalencollege
Guest
magdalencollege

Enforcing Rule 8.04 would be a good start. Boston’s pitchers would pick up the pace if they had to face every hitter with the count of 1-0.

Ryan_MT
Member
Ryan_MT

“8.04
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call ?Ball.? The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.”

johnnycuff
Guest
johnnycuff

they must have put steve trachsel in charge of enforcement

philkid3
Member

This would significantly curb one of the biggest complaints of casual and potential baseball fans.

IT IS ALREADY A RULE!

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC

I don’t understand why people want games to go faster.

Let’s say that I go to a game and buy a ticket that costs $60. If the game is finished in two hours, then I’ve just spend $30/hour of baseball. If the game goes three hours, I’ve spend $20/hour of baseball. If the game goes four hours, I’ve spent $15/hour of baseball. If the game goes extra innings and lasts six hours, I’m down to $10/hour to watch baseball.

If people love baseball — and, if you’re here, I’m assuming you do — isn’t more baseball better than less baseball? From where I sit, a five hour game is infinitely preferable to a three hour game — more baseball, same price.

Pitnick
Guest
Pitnick

It isn’t more baseball, though. It’s the same amount of baseball stretched over more time. It’s tough for a lot of people to find that kind of time in their day.

DavidJ
Member
DavidJ

A pitcher who works slowly doesn’t give us more baseball; he just makes the same amount of baseball take longer. A hundred pitches with twenty seconds between them is the same amount of baseball as a hundred pitches with thirty seconds between them.

J.D. KaPow
Guest
J.D. KaPow

As the others noted, it’s not more baseball, it’s the same amount of baseball stretched over more time. To get more baseball, you want the actual pitches to take longer, not the time between them. Therefore, soft-tossers represent your best baseball bargain, while flamethrowers are simply stealing your hard-earned money. Down with Aroldis Chapman’s 100+mph heat! Up with Livan Hernandez’s eephus pitch!

philkid3
Member

I’m saying it too, so you can keep on getting corrected:

I watch baseball to see 54 outs. If I see more, it’s because the game is tight and thrilling. The less time it takes to see those 54 outs, the better. I want to see plenty of baseball, I just want less time between the not-baseball. Taking forever between pitches is not-baseball.

geo
Guest
geo

The only things that add up to “more baseball” are extra innings and doubleheaders.

Hecky Schmaltz
Guest
Hecky Schmaltz

Weird, I thought Terri Schiavo was dead. Well, if you have a DVR you can just pause it for 20 seconds after every pitch and stare at the frozen screen, which is more or less as interesting as watching players adjust their pads and expectorate in between pitches, and you’ll get twice as much entertainment! As a bonus you don’t even have to listen to the generally-irritating announcers while enjoying this ‘baseball’.

cs3
Member
cs3

you guys are all missing the most important point though…. more time between pitches means more time before the 7th inning, which means more time for BEER!

and this is the red sox were talking about here, so that is obviously the correct reasoning

amgarvey
Guest
amgarvey

I don’t necessarily disagree with the comments of the original poster. Many times I enjoy the leisurely pace of baseball.

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