Touching BasesDecember 16, 2010
More Observations on Pace
By Jeremy Greenhouse

One month ago, Lucas Apostolereris explored how much time pitchers take in between pitches, and FanGraphs added pace to its player pages shortly thereafter. Dave Allen went on to analyze batter's pace and make some other observations. It's taken awhile for this PITCHf/x timestamp data to be mined, but I've finally decided to get my hands dirty with it.

Like Dave, the way I'm calculating pace results in a 22.4-second difference between pitches, which is slightly slower than the FanGraphs calculation. (FanGraphs' method excludes pickoffs, which I'm not sure I agree with. I've always felt that a pitcher is pitching slowly if he throws to first a bunch.) Dave found that two-strike counts are the most time-consuming. There's certainly something there, but even more significant might be the pitch sequence of the at-bat. On average, 20 seconds pass between the first and second pitches of an at bat, while 30 seconds pass between the 10th and 11th pitches.

1-2 19.7
2-3 22.2
3-4 23.2
4-5 24.3
5-6 26.0
6-7 27.4
7-8 28.2
8-9 28.7
9-10 29.0
10-11 30.0

Batters are more likely to step out of the box the deeper into the at bat they go, and pitchers take more time to determine about their pitch selection. There is no such clear trend in the relationship between overall pitch count and pace.

Pitchers start out blazing coming out of the gate. Many pitchers don't even think, but rather try to solely establish the fastball. Pitches 10-20 cover the most difficult part of the batting order, when it is also likely that there are runners on base, so the pace slows down dramatically. After that, the data smooths out, and pitchers slow down the further along they go.

Back in April, Mike Fast* used the timestamp data to check on why Yankees vs. Red Sox games take so long, and he found that the reason was more than simply batters and pitchers taking a lot of time between pitches. It turns out that the average time between innings is a little over two-and-a-half minutes, which can fluctuate depending on teams. I believe that the umpire, under directions to restart the game following commercial breaks, controls the time between innings. Home teams with a lot of nationally-televised games (Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Braves) are those that take over 2:40 between innings, while others (Royals, Blue Jays, Athletics) take under 2:30.

Mike has also done a very cool study on pace and defense.

Mid-inning relief changes last on average 3:15. Interestingly, Colorado, where there is an average break length between innings, allows pitchers the most time to warm up at 3:29. It is notoriously difficult to pitch in Coors, so it would make sense for relievers to be given some leeway with warm-up time. In Oakland, mid-inning changes only last 2:54 on average. Furthermore, the incoming reliever can dictate when he resumes play. Mike Adams and, unsurprisingly, Jonathan Papelbon, are in a league of their own, as it takes them four minutes to pick up play. A few A's pitchers (Andrew Bailey, Brad Ziegler, Jerry Blevins) keep it well under three.

The average time between at bats is 50 seconds. Carlos Pena is slow.

Pitchers only spend 11 seconds between pitches when issuing intentional walks. Otherwise, the game moves most quickly following called strikes. Balls in the dirt result in a loss of 10 seconds as compared to regular balls. Fouls with the runner going result in a loss of 10 seconds as compared to regular fouls.

How else might a game's pace be affected?


Anybody watch the Mazeroski game on MLB network last night? Probably the most startling aspects to me was how quickly the pitchers worked, and how rarely the batters stepped out -- 19 runs and 7 pitching changes in (I checked the box score) 2:36!

Other surprises --

No strikeouts.

How bad the field was.

How small the players were.

And of course, the absence of black and hispanic players. (Each team had two, so they could room together on the road.)