Daniel Nava and the Human Rain Delays

Earlier this offseason, as part of an info-taining post illustrating the influence a single batter can exert on game pace, Jeff discovered that Marwin Gonzalez was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r between pitches this past season.

I followed up shortly after that with a piece in defense of pitchers, as I suspected much of the blame for the slowing pace of play could be assigned to batters.

While the hot stove is slowly warming this offseason, let us not forget that the biggest change we’ll observe in major-league stadiums next season could be the appearance of pitch clocks. Buster Olney reported last month that the introduction of a pitch clock is a distinct possibility.

In my piece from earlier his offseason, I noted that pace quickened in the PITCHf/x era only when specific rules were instituted and enforced in 2015 — in particular, a rule demanding that batters keep a foot in the box at all times unless certain exemptions had been met, like swinging at a pitch or being knocked down by one. But MLB and the MLBPA later agreed to do away with the threat of monetary penalty. After that, pace again began to slow.

While it’s difficult to assign credit for pace when searching leaderboards, we do know that last season featured 17 of the 25 slowest pace seasons by team, as documented in the following table.

Slowest Batter Pace by Team Since 2007
Rank Team Season Pace
1 Angels 2017 25.2
2 Red Sox 2017 25.1
3 Rays 2017 24.9
4 Astros 2017 24.8
5 Yankees 2017 24.8
6 Twins 2017 24.8
7 Tigers 2017 24.8
8 Rockies 2017 24.7
9 Dodgers 2014 24.7
10 Rangers 2017 24.6
11 Nationals 2014 24.6
12 D-backs 2017 24.5
13 Nationals 2016 24.4
14 Giants 2016 24.4
15 Mariners 2017 24.3
16 Angels 2014 24.3
17 Brewers 2014 24.3
18 Rockies 2014 24.2
19 Nationals 2017 24.2
20 Dodgers 2017 24.2
21 Athletics 2017 24.2
22 Braves 2017 24.2
23 Yankees 2013 24.2
24 Giants 2017 24.2
25 Red Sox 2013 24.1

And as far as individual culprits, there was one batter even slower than Gonzalez, if we lower the plate-appearance threshold to 100: Daniel Nava, who averaged 29.7 seconds between pitches.

In fact, Nava’s 2017 was the slowest batter pace on record in the PITCHf/x era.

To gain a feel and understanding of what exactly is holding up Nava, I took a look at one game against a league-average pace pitcher in 2017, Atlanta’s Luke Sims (24.1 seconds). From this one-game sample size, we begin to get a sense of why Nava was historically slow.

Nava is among those batters who are egregious violators of Rule 6.02 (d) which states:

“The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout the batter’s time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter’s box but not the dirt area surrounding
home plate:

(i) The batter swings at a pitch;
(ii) The batter is forced out of the batter’s box by a pitch;
(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”;
(iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
(v) The batter feints a bunt;
(vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
(vii) The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving
the ball; or
(viii)The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.”

On Aug. 28. 2017 in Philadelphia, Nava didn’t seem to be aware of or have much respect for Rule 6.02 (d).

I employed QuickTime Player’s time stamps to see exactly how long Nava was spending outside the box. In his first plate appearance, he departs the box after a called ball. It takes about 17 seconds for him to return to a hitting position in the box. Nava brushes the ground with a toe, leaves the box, appears to clear his sinuses, then returns.

In his second plate appearance, he departs the box again after a called strike, causing a 14-second interlude before he is again ready to hit.

The following pitch, a called ball, offers another pause in play, this one about 14 seconds. Sims is clearly ready to pitch and is waiting on Nava.

These are painfully slow, action-less GIFs. These durations of non-action are seemingly unnecessary. And Nava is hardly the only offender.

The following table contains the top-50 human rain delays of the PITCHf/x era (min: 100 plate appearances in a season). Notice that there are a number of repeat offenders, like Robinson Cano, Danny Espinosa, Hanley Ramirez. This is more evidence to suggest that hitters are largely to blame.

The Top 50 Human Rain Delays of PITCHf/x Era
Rank Name Season Pace
1 Daniel Nava 2017 29.7
2 Marwin Gonzalez 2017 29.5
3 Hanley Ramirez 2014 29.3
4 Odubel Herrera 2017 29.3
5 Carlos Pena 2012 29.0
6 Robinson Cano 2017 28.9
7 Carlos Pena 2011 28.8
8 Troy Tulowitzki 2014 28.7
9 Jorge Alfaro 2017 28.7
10 Mark Canha 2017 28.7
11 Hanley Ramirez 2017 28.6
12 Luke Scott 2012 28.5
13 Danny Espinosa 2017 28.5
14 Troy Tulowitzki 2013 28.4
15 Robinson Cano 2013 28.4
16 Logan Morrison 2017 28.4
17 Carlos Pena 2010 28.4
18 Carlos Pena 2013 28.4
19 Troy Tulowitzki 2012 28.2
20 Conor Gillaspie 2016 28.2
21 Danny Espinosa 2016 28.2
22 Alex Avila 2017 28.1
23 Alex Avila 2016 28.0
24 Brandon Phillips 2013 28.0
25 Travis Hafner 2013 28.0
26 Corey Dickerson 2014 27.9
27 Reed Johnson 2011 27.9
28 Kelly Shoppach 2013 27.9
29 Corey Dickerson 2017 27.8
30 Mitch Moreland 2017 27.8
31 Kole Calhoun 2017 27.8
32 Danny Espinosa 2014 27.8
33 Bryce Harper 2017 27.7
34 Ryan Braun 2017 27.7
35 Jett Bandy 2017 27.7
36 Carlos Pena 2008 27.6
37 Gerardo Parra 2017 27.6
38 Brandon Phillips 2012 27.6
39 Alex Avila 2014 27.6
40 Carlos Pena 2009 27.5
41 Avisail Garcia 2017 27.5
42 Martin Maldonado 2017 27.5
43 Victor Martinez 2014 27.4
44 Kurt Suzuki 2017 27.4
45 Hanley Ramirez 2012 27.4
46 Kelly Shoppach 2012 27.4
47 Victor Martinez 2017 27.4
48 Yasiel Puig 2014 27.3
49 Gary Sanchez 2017 27.3
50 Hanley Ramirez 2013 27.2

While ratings and revenues are not hurting, in order to keep the next generation of fans engaged and interested in the sport, it is probably prudent for MLB to be proactive in getting out in front of the pace issues. Indeed, MLB might not even need a clock, it just might need to keep its batters — like Nava and Gonzalez — in the box.

What baseball could really do to pick up the pace is simply enforce a rule that already exists.

We hoped you liked reading Daniel Nava and the Human Rain Delays by Travis Sawchik!

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A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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LHPSU
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LHPSU

Daniel Nava and Josh Beckett were teammates on the 2010 Red Sox team. That’s all you need to know.

pedeysRSox
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pedeysRSox

And Nava had only 188 PAs that year

LHPSU
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LHPSU

Which took as much time as somebody else’s 500 PAs.

Anyhow, Beckett also only had 21 starts, so no problem at all!