Some Observations on Pace

I was excited to see that David Appelman added Pace to the stats pages based on don’t_bring_in_the_lefty‘s post at BtBS. It was something I had thought about before when Carson emailed me about including it in NERD. Nothing came of it, but I had the code lying around on my computer and I thought this would be good opportunity to share some of my observations.

First off, I calculate pace a little differently. I don’t have pick-off attempts in my database, so my time between pitches will be higher than David’s. For example, if a four-pitch at-bat includes one pick-off attempt and takes a total of 60 seconds, I would get an average of 60/3 = 20 seconds, while David gets 60/4 = 15 seconds. On average David gets 21.5 seconds between pitches while I get 22.5. I think our different formulas might also be why David gets different numbers than those posted at BtBS.

Beyond pace numbers for each pitcher, I wanted to see how count and other game states (situation) affect pace. Here is the time, in seconds, between the pervious pitch and the pitch at each count sorted by time:

1-0 19.2
3-0 19.4
0-1 20.4
3-1 21.2
2-0 21.3
1-1 21.5
2-1 22.0
1-2 25.3
0-2 25.5
2-2 25.8
3-2 26.1

Two-strike counts slow down the game — adding over three seconds per pitch. The reason might have more to do with the batter; he is more likely to step out of the box when he is closer to a strikeout. But the implication might mean strikeout pitchers will have a slower pace just because they spend more time in two-strike counts, which explains, to some extent, why pitch-to-contact guys like Mike Leake and Mark Buehrle have the fastest pace.

Next I wanted to look at how game state affects pace. A commenter to David’s post suggested looking at it by Leverage Index. Unfortunately I don’t have those numbers in my database — as a proxy I used runners on instead. Not surprisingly, the game slows down drastically with runners on (27.3 seconds between pitches when at least one runner is on, versus 19.9 without). A big part of this is because I am counting time for throws over to first in the time between pitches.

Another thing that will slow down a game, although only slightly, is when a reliever comes in. On average they are two seconds slower between pitches (23.8 for relievers versus 21.8 for starters). Relievers strikeout more batters than starters so part of this is the extra two-strike counts at which relievers will arrive. But even looking at just two-strike counts, relievers take longer (27.1 seconds versus 24.9 seconds). Don’t_bring_in_the_lefty‘s list at BtBS was almost all relievers and it looks like this is a general trend.

Are there any other aspects of pace you want to be explored?

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

14 Responses to “Some Observations on Pace”

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  1. Jilly says:

    Any decent way to measure defense based on the pace of the pitcher on the mound? The old adage is that fast pitchers “keep the defenders on their toes” while slow pitchers make them fall asleep, any way to back that up?

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  2. Temo says:

    It’d be interesting to see pace for batters and then see which had more total effect on the pace of the game. My inclination would be that batters have more of an effect on pace than we think (perhaps more than pitchers).

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    • Jim Lahey says:

      I’m also curious to see this from a batter standpoint. Some guys definitely drag out the at bats due to foul balls, stepping out, fixing their batting gloves (Nomar) etc.

      I’m curious if the reason that AL East pitchers are so slow between pitches is because of the hitters they face the majority of the time are very methodical in their approach.

      Also curious if teams play faster against other teams (though sample size might be an issue). I’m a Red Sox fan and I’d bet our games vs. TB were probably the slowest we had all season because of the base stealing threat and the constant pickoff moves.

      I’m also curious about the catcher making a difference for pace

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  3. Greg says:

    I wonder if the same pitcher exhibits a significant difference when working with different catchers on the same team. You sometimes hear a lot of speculation that Pitcher A gets along best with Catcher X.

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  4. Paul SF says:

    Is it just me? I’m not seeing “Pace” on the pitcher pages. Just “Strikes” occupying a wide space next to “Pitches” on the Pitch Type Data…

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  5. newsense says:

    Foul balls also increase the time between pitches because of the wait to see the outcome and because a new ball is brought in and rubbed down by the pitcher. As there tend to be more foul balls with two strike counts, this may be a partial explanation.

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  6. ian says:

    I’d like to know what impact, if any, pace has on runs scored for the pitching team. That is, does an offense score more points for their pitcher when he operates faster or slower?

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  7. MikeS says:

    I don’t know about Leake or other guys who pitch to contact, but Buehrle doesn’t futz around even when he does work deep into the count.

    if he slows down, it’s because the batters are stepping out on him, trying to disrupt his rhythm.

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  8. Mike says:

    I’ve heard over the years how when a pitcher is pitching well he’ll pitch faster (I heard this about Lincecum during the Playoffs). Any truth to some sort of relation between QS and pace?

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