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.

42 Responses to “Pitcher Pace (Time Between Pitches)”

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  1. Kirsh says:

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

    Anyone else STUNNED by this development?

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    • delv says:

      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.”

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      • FanGraphs Supporting Member

        You could do the same thing for batters and figure out which batters are the slowest and then figure it out from there. I think it’s possible to do, but more difficult and I imagine over the course of an entire season it’s probably going to even out for pitchers/batters, but I could be wrong.

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      • Shawn says:

        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.

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    • Scooter says:

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

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      • KO72 says:

        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.

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  2. 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.

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  3. JoeS says:

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

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

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  5. Hank says:

    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.

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  6. pft says:

    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.

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    • MikeS says:

      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.

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    • J says:

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

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  7. Andy S says:

    This is awesome, thanks!

    Belated thanks for tRA and wRC+ too.

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  8. Erik says:

    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.

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    • Mark says:

      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?

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  9. Bryz says:

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

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  10. DT says:

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

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    • TomG says:

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

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  11. grady says:

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

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  12. Kevin S. says:

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

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    • Nostradamus says:

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

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    • chuckb says:

      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.

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    • Kyle says:

      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).

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  13. neuter_your_dogma says:

    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.

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  14. Mike says:

    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.

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    • joe says:

      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.

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  15. Evan says:

    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.

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  16. Eric R says:

    Especially when the slow ones are facign each other :)

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  17. GiantFaninDodgerLand says:

    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.

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  18. Mark W says:

    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.

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    • Shawn says:

      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

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  19. Craig says:

    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?

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  20. BurleighGrimes says:

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

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  21. Graham says:

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

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  22. David says:

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

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  23. 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.

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  24. skillz25 says:

    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?

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