Jose Fernandez and Efficient Dominance

In the grand scheme of things, raising a child that ends up being a band nerd isn’t such a terrible fate. There are a lot of worse things a kid could do with their time, and band nerds generally stay out of trouble. They are just as weird and filled with hormones as the next kid, but band kids tend to be involved in a lot of activities which keeps them under fairly-constant supervision. Band parents may have to buy a few more fundraiser candy bars or sign off on a few more field trips, but at least they are not bailing their kids out of jail.

The life of a band parent isn’t without its pitfalls however. There’s a lot of shuttling around that needs to happen, and instruments aren’t necessarily cheap. And then there are the concerts. There are so many concerts. One in fall, one around the holidays, one in the spring — along with plenty of other parades and solo competitions and jazz concerts. It has to be excruciating. But some mixture of parental love and not wanting to be seen as monsters pushes these parents to sit through these things. They don’t want to be there. Nobody does. But they are there. And all they can do is hope it goes quickly.

The Atlanta Braves is a professional baseball team. I can’t speak directly to their stance on attending children’s band concerts, but I assume they have a fairly strict policy on not leaving games that are still ongoing. I can imagine they were cursing that policy Tuesday, as they were handed 9-0 loss at the hands of the Marlins and looked fairly punchless in the process. Luckily for them, the agony didn’t have to last too long. And for that, they can thank Jose Fernandez.

It seems odd writing about a Jose Fernandez v. Alex Wood matchup a mere seven days after Jeff Sullivan did the same thing here, but this game was special for another reason. The game from a week ago featured two pitchers that were extremely locked in, while Fernandez was the only affective starter on Tuesday. Wood got roughed up a bit, ending the night having allowed seven earned runs over five innings while allowing 10 hits, a walk, and a homer. It was certainly a few steps removed from his dominant performance one week prior.

And while Fernandez didn’t duplicate his previous start either, he still managed to quiet the Atlanta bats fairly well. He went eight innings, averaging one strikeout per inning, while allowing four baserunners and throwing 98 pitches. According to Baseball Reference, only 87 such feats have occurred. Fernandez probably could have pitched the ninth inning as well, but that was given to Carlos Marmol. This was probably in part to save the arm of Miami’s young ace, but also because the Marlins were winning 9-0. Even Carlos Marmol had a slim chance of blowing that lead. Fernandez’s line in the box score is impressive, there’s another stat at the bottom that is almost equally so — Time of Game: 2:07.

The ever-increasing amount of time it takes to complete a baseball game is certainly not a new topic of discussion. In fact, it was evoked quite a bit during the debate over instant replay. As a refresher, here is the average time of a baseball game since 1950, according to Retrosheet:


It takes a little more than three hours to complete a game these days, on average. But there still are short games, to be sure. The Atlanta/Miami game from last Tuesday went only 2:08, for instance. But that game was a one-run affair. Shouldn’t a one-run game take less time than one with lots of runs? It depends on how you look at it.

I looked at all nine-inning (or more) games over the past five years. If you sort by just the total, there is a clear positive trend between runs scored and time of game.

Total Runs Avg. Time (Min.)
1 to 4 162.4
5 to 8 172.9
9 to 12 183
13 or More 197.7

If you strip away the total and look just at score difference, however, something else emerges.

Score Difference Avg. Time (Min.)
1 to 3 180.5
4 to 6 175.2
7 to 9 176.7
10 or more 181

Close games and blowouts average to almost the same amount of time. This makes sense on the surface. Blowout games will most likely involve lots of hits, maybe a few home run trots, and a fair amount of pitching changes. Close games will have pitching changes too — more for matchup reasons than ineffectiveness — and close games have a tendency to slow down in general as pitchers and hitters work more deliberately.

So, what’s the sweet spot for the shortest game? Here’s a combo of sorts of the above tables.

Run Difference
Total Runs 1 to 3 4 to 6 7 to 9 10 or More
1 to 4 162.9 min 158.4 N/A N/A
5 to 8 176.6 166 163.4 N/A
9 to 12 188.8 178.8 172.3 169.7
13 or More 206.9 195.3 186.5 186.7

If you are trying to sneak in an afternoon game without your boss noticing, hope that one team wins 4-0. If it’s a close game with a lot of runs, you’re going to be there a while.

The chart tells us that the game in question should have lasted around 172 minutes, on average. It lasted 127. Of all the games between 2009 and 2013 in which nine or more runs were scored, this game was the third shortest, missing a tie for second by one minute. We can thank the relatively small amount of pitching changes (three), the fact that only one pitching change happened mid-inning, and we can certainly thank Jose Fernandez.

According to Brooks Baseball, Fernandez never had an inning in which he threw less than 60% of his pitches for strikes. He never needed more than 20 pitches to get out of an inning. He threw a first-pitch strike against 71% of the batters he faced. Of the sixteen balls that were put in play, only two of them were hits, only one of which went for extra bases.

Gaudy numbers are always fun to look at. We like seeing a pitcher or hitter exceed expectations in one way or another. While Jose Fernandez of April 29th didn’t put up the same numbers as Jose Fernandez of April 22nd, he certainly showed his dominance. Striking out 14 batters is wonderful, but if you can watch your teammates drop a nine spot on the opposition and still get off the field in less time than it takes to watch a Scorsese movie, then you’re doing something right. Jose Fernandez is certainly doing some things right. Atlanta saw that first-hand. At least they didn’t have to stay long.

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David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.

13 Responses to “Jose Fernandez and Efficient Dominance”

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  1. t88west says:

    Jose Fernandez being particularly affective …

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Yes, that was certainly some kind of emotional reaction he had to that home run

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    • ballsteidhe says:

      That’s what you just gotta love about the kid. Besides his pitch repertoire, of course.
      He’s always enjoying himself out on the field, playing the game the right way, with a whole lot of excitement. Just look at his reaction after the great play Hechavarria made last night. He just couldn’t stop laughing

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      • Brian McCann says:

        He plays the game the right way? I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much.

        +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ryan says:

        Yeah, he really ran out that grounder.

        (I get it, he’s a pitcher that gets paid to throw, not run…but…)

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      • On the Lamb says:

        It’s cool to see players show emotion, but that particular emotion looked like a 8 year-old kid who was able to open a Christmas present early and got a N64. It’s kind of frightening.

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  2. Nick in ATL says:

    See what happens when Uggla and BJ aren’t in the lineup?

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  3. Cory says:

    David, does the strong emergence of the bullpen and the fact it is now more specific (LOOGy and such) add to the length of games? It wouldn’t been world changing, but a difference.

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  4. Mike says:

    As a Braves fan, I console myself with the knowledge that we will only have to deal with him in the division until he starts hitting his arbitration years.

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  5. Kevin says:

    There was a story in the offseason that the Marlins wanted to prioritize shorter game times, possibly including speaking to pitchers who were taking too long:

    Ironically, Fernandez had the slowest pace of pitching of all Marlins starters entering the year (though he was league average in that category). But fewer pitches per inning has a way to cover over that.

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  6. Zach says:

    Fernandez looks special every time I watch him. Hes not just some young arm with nasty stuff. His command is EXCELLENT and he brings an intensity that resonates to his teammates. Seeing that 1.99 xFIP backs up my belief that he won’t regress a whole lot.

    Highlights from last night:

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  7. Close games also tend to be the ones that get into extra innings, which obviously lengthen the game. You did say that you looked at all games of nine innings or more for five years. Did you make any adjustment for games that go past nine? Because I do think there’s a qualitative difference between nine innings and extras, in the entertainment they provide the spectator. Thirty added minutes to play the same nine innings is a different demand on our patience that thirty added minutes to play into the eleventh.

    Sorry to be nit-picky, but there just seems to be an evident reason why nail-biters might take as long as blowouts, lurking behind the numbers.

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