Pitcher Pace (Time Between Pitches)

I’ve added a new stat to the PitchF/x section, “Pace”, inspired by this post over at Beyond the Box Score, which shows how much time each pitcher takes in between his pitches.

The way I calculate Pace, is by taking the difference between the start time of the first pitch in the plate appearance, and the end time of the last pitch in the plate appearance. I then divide by the number of pitches in that plate appearance (minus 1). Pickoff attempts are considered just another pitch, since they don’t have time stamps of their own. Anything that looks like a game delay between pitches is thrown out. The average pace is about 21.5 seconds.

My numbers didn’t come out exactly the same as the Beyond the Box Score post, but the ordering of fast/slow pitchers is quite similar. I’m not entirely sure what is the cause of the differences.

The slowest 5 pitchers are:

Daisuke Matsuzaka – 25.9 sec.
Matt Garza – 25.8 sec.
Josh Beckett – 25.2 sec.
Clay Buchholz – 24.6 sec.
CC Sabathia – 24.6 sec.

And the 5 fastest are:

Mark Buehrle – 16.4 sec.
Mike Leake – 17.6 sec.
John Danks – 17.6 sec.
Joe Blanton – 17.6 sec.
Clayton Richard – 17.7 sec.

As noted in the original article, pace seems like an organizational thing, which could certainly be the result of coaching. Buehrle, Danks, and Richard all started their major league careers with the White Sox and pitching coach Don Cooper. Even Jake Peavy trimmed 1.5 seconds off his pace with the White Sox this year. I’d say it’s worth researching further.



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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.


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Kirsh
Member
Kirsh
5 years 6 months ago

Oh look, all five of the slowest pitchers are in the AL East.

Anyone else STUNNED by this development?

delv
Guest
delv
5 years 6 months ago

Indeed, it’s not clear how one would separate out the effect that constantly facing slow, methodical hitters would have on a pitcher’s “pace.”

Shawn
Guest
Shawn
5 years 6 months ago

Not quite the same thing, but a small sampling of starters who changed teams:

Millwood: 22.1 with BAL, 23.0 elsewhere*
Lackey: 20.8 with BOS, 20.2 elsewhere
Sabathia: 24.7 with NYY, 22.9 elsewhere
Vazquez: 23.6 with NYY, 22.6 elsewhere
Garza: 25.6 with TB, 24.0 elsewhere
Kazmir: 22.5 with TB, 20.9 elsewhere**
Halladay: 21.0 with TOR, 18.9 elsewhere
Morrow: 22.3 with TOR, 22.1 elsewhere

Average: 22.8 in AL East, 21.8 elsewhere

Millwood sped up compared to 2007-09 but slowed down compared to last year’s 21.5. Kazmir’s 2009 was not included as splits aren’t available.

Scooter
Guest
Scooter
5 years 6 months ago

Except that only 1 of those 5 pitchers was actually developed by an AL East team…

KO72
Guest
KO72
3 years 11 months ago

That part of the argument isn’t relevant to the AL East point. The pitcher wouldn’t need to have been developed in the AL East for the more methodical batting approaches in that division to have an impact on the pitcher once he began pitching in the division. Who developed the pitcher isn’t critical to that argument.

As a Rays fan, and I’m just speculating with no evidence, the Yankees and Red Sox are absolutely the most glacial hitters in the world. Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, all have intricate rhythms in between pitches, and all have high pitch counts. Part of the effect is that you’re dealing with a cast of better hitters to begin with. Fewer divisions have the depth of payroll (and resulting power) that the AL East possesses. As a result, you get longer, more patient ABs, better ability to defensively foul off two-strike pitches to extend said ABs, better eye on borderline pitches.

Again, nothing concrete behind this argument, just observation; games in the AL East are longer than games outside the division. A large portion of that impact has to be due to the batters. And if that can be empirically verified, it would be likely that the pitcher’s origin within the division would not be as critical as merely pitching in the division.

Larry Smith Jr.
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

R.J. was just talking about pace today with Benoit and decried his inability to measure it. Guess we’ve solved that problem nicely within 12 hours. I like it.

JoeS
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I remember watching Mark Buehrle’s perfect game thinking “man this guy is FLYING through this game”

Lucas Apostoleris
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

This is great. I’m glad you appreciated my work at BtB.

Hank
Guest
Hank
5 years 6 months ago

I think the difference is in how pickoffs are handled. I think Beyond is just ignoring any data point that involves a pickoff attempt (I’m not 100% certain though)

This should only impact pitchers with “throwover-itis” (Buchholz comes to mind).

Not sure if it’s worth looking at men on vs noone on splits… someone like Beckett is absolutely painful to watch with men on and I suspect his pace is impacted by his ‘pickoff’ philospohy…. just hold the ball forever and then get upset when the batter asks for time.

Lucas Apostoleris
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

You’re right. For my study, I only looked at pitches that were thrown with nobody on base.

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 6 months ago

So the worst are 4 seconds slower than the average. For 100 pitches per start that’s 400 seconds, or under 7 minutes.

Not much to worry about if you ask me.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
5 years 6 months ago

Seems that way when you put it like that.

But I’m a White Sox fan so I get to see a lot of fast workers. I’ve seen Garza and Sabbathia who used to be in the division. I’ve seen Carlton Fisk behind the plate. Those 4 seconds can seem a lot longer. It’s a matter of tempo and how long you have to look around at everything else between pitches.

Also, your math is inaccurate. Each pitcher throws roughly 100 pitches (200 total) so it’s 14 minutes or almost the length of an entire inning. If it is coach/team dependent, you may be able to extend it to the bullpens so you are talking about maybe 300 pitches per nine inning game or 20 full minutes per game.

J
Guest
J
5 years 6 months ago

The final pitch of the PA isn’t included so it’s right around 300 seconds.

Andy S
Guest
Andy S
5 years 6 months ago

This is awesome, thanks!

Belated thanks for tRA and wRC+ too.

Erik
Guest
Erik
5 years 6 months ago

Nice. Want to play around? How about looking at pace vs. LI, or pace vs. base-out state? My gut tells me that some pitchers slow down a lot when there are men on, regardless of their bases-empty pace. It would be nice to see what the data has to say about that.

Mark
Guest
Mark
5 years 6 months ago

Particularly like the idea of pace v LI, and then comparing FIP in those situations to bases empty FIP; does the pitcher get better results working quicker/slower or does he crumble under the pressure of runners on base?

Bryz
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Naturally, the next thing to do is identify the average-est pitchers from 2010.

DT
Guest
DT
5 years 6 months ago

31.6 secs for Papelbon ahaha i knew he was slow but wow.

TomG
Member
TomG
5 years 6 months ago

He obviously has a tough time making up his mind between throwing a fastball and throwing a fastball.

grady
Guest
grady
5 years 6 months ago

finally something to explain why i can’t stand watching red sox games on tv.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 6 months ago

MLB takes twenty-seconds between the action, people bitch about the pace. Football takes forty seconds between the action, nobody says a word. Hmm.

Nostradamus
Guest
Nostradamus
5 years 6 months ago

Big difference in that football has a time limit on the entire game.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
5 years 6 months ago

The same reason why everyone goes ape-you-know-what when one MLB player tests positive for steroids but when it happens in the NFL, no one says anything.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle
5 years 6 months ago

In football there are substitutions on both offense/defense, and plays must be called into one player and then shared with the other 10 players on each side of the ball. There’s also only 60 minutes to work with in a football game, so taking time between plays doesn’t extend the length of the game, it just reduces the total number of plays per game. With baseball you must record 27 outs, and as this study shows some guys take an excrutiating amount of time to record those 27 outs (or atleast their portion of the 27).

neuter_your_dogma
Guest
neuter_your_dogma
5 years 6 months ago

If one adds the time it takes an average player to complete a homerun trot, then Joe Blanton will likely fall out of the “fastest” category.

Mike
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I’d really like to see individual games for this. For example, I bet the pace for pitchers in the Red Sox/Yanks game is slower than averages for the players.

Also, I looked at Papelbon…31 seconds between pitches, what a painful painful inning to watch.

joe
Guest
joe
5 years 6 months ago

On the plus side this gives the TV a better shot at framing the stare, and then switching back to the CF view… that never gets old.

Evan
Guest
Evan
5 years 6 months ago

The largest difference, from fastest to slowest pitcher is about 10 seconds. Over 100 pitches that’s 1000 seconds or a little less than 17 minutes. Certainly does slow down games.

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
5 years 6 months ago

Especially when the slow ones are facign each other :)

GiantFaninDodgerLand
Guest
GiantFaninDodgerLand
5 years 6 months ago

Old school baseball thinking says that if pitchers work faster, their defenders play better behind them. It would be interesting to attempt to correlate pitcher pace with BABIP or a defensive metric, to see if this holds true.

Mike Fast
Guest
Mike Fast
5 years 6 months ago

Dan Fox:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6181

and I:
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/short-work/

have looked at that question previously. It would be interesting to revisit it with additional seasons of data.

Mark W
Guest
Mark W
5 years 6 months ago

I remember when Buehrle would face Mark Mulder when he was good and on the A’s. Those games were over in the blink of an eye and I think it really made the games more enjoyable.

Shawn
Guest
Shawn
5 years 6 months ago

Fastest nine inning games of 2003:

1:49 Mark Mulder vs. Mark Buehrle
1:53 Mark Mulder vs. Mark Buehrle
1:54 Mark Mulder vs. Mark Buehrle

Craig
Guest
Craig
5 years 6 months ago

I agree that organization likely plays a key role in pace, but the fact that the 5 slowest pitchers are all in the AL East makes me suspicious that the proclivity of opponent batters to step out of the batter’s box is heavily correlated. Is it possible to normalize these results for opponent team? How do pace times compare when playing an AL East team vs all other teams?

BurleighGrimes
Guest
BurleighGrimes
5 years 6 months ago

I’m not seeing where pace is on the player pages?

BurleighGrimes
Guest
BurleighGrimes
5 years 6 months ago

Nevermind, just found it.

Graham
Guest
Graham
5 years 6 months ago

Would the time that it takes for a batter to set up bear any weight on this?

David
Guest
David
5 years 6 months ago

Steve Trachsel: only 23.6? man those AL East pitchers are slow

Ted Leavengood
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

Former pitcher Dave Baldwin, who received an advanced degree in bio-mechanics, holds that because the mind holds the image of the last pitch for several seconds, that it is harder for the batter to re-calibrate for the next pitch if the pitcher throws quickly enough. Balwin’s theory was that the mental image of the last pitch would confuse the batter if the pitcher worked quickly, that the batter cannot completely adjust to the next pitch if his mind is in any way still focused on the last pitch. So there could be a physiological foundation for pace improving the performance of the pitcher, unless of course the pitcher continues to throw the same pitch.

skillz25
Member
skillz25
1 year 8 months ago

I see that this article was written in 2010 and I was wondering if the Pace that can be downloaded as a custom report on the FanGraph site
is calculated the same way as written in the 1st paragraph of this article?

If it is calculated differently, does anyone know how?
Thanks!

skillz25
Member
skillz25
1 year 8 months ago

The words “FanGraph site” is a link to the custom report.

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