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No wonder Yankees and Red Sox play never-ending games

Nov 15, 2010, 4:46 PM EST

slow clock

Beyond the Boxscore crunched the numbers on the time pitchers take between pitches and the results are pretty interesting.

To no one’s surprise pitchers on the Red Sox (23.3 seconds) and Yankees (22.8 seconds) took the longest time between deliveries to the plate, while the A’s (18.9 seconds) and White Sox (19.1 seconds) were the quickest.

That may not seem like a huge difference from fastest to slowest, but consider that the average team throws 145 pitches per game and that means the difference between the Red Sox at 23.3 seconds and the A’s at 18.9 seconds is 638 seconds or about 10.5 minutes. Multiply that by two when the Red Sox are playing the Yankees and … well, each game has an extra 20-25 minutes just from the pitchers taking so damn long to make each throw.

In terms of individual pitchers, Rafael Betancourt earned his long-held reputation as the majors’ slowest-worker by averaging an MLB-high 31.1 seconds between pitches. To put that in some context, consider that Jonathan Papelbon at 30.0 is the only other pitcher to average more than 28 seconds between pitches. Or, put another way, Betancourt took 35 percent longer between pitches than the average Red Sox pitcher did. Yuck.

Mark Buehrle was the majors’ fastest-worker at 16.0 seconds between pitches, which is also no surprise and also means that Betancourt almost literally takes twice as long as Buehrle between pitches. Betancourt takes 52.2 minutes for every 100 throws, while Buehrle takes 26.7 minutes per 100 throws

There’s been all kinds of discussion about how baseball can speed up games, but the data from Beyond the Boxscore has me convinced that simply enforcing some sort of between-pitch time standard would address most of the problem. MLB could easily shave 15-20 minutes off the average game by simply insisting that slow pokes like the Red Sox and Yankees follow the lead of teams like the A’s and White Sox, and there’s just no reason to allow guys like Betancourt and Papelbon to take 30 seconds on every pitch.

  1. proudlycanadian - Nov 15, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    I used to enjoy watching head to head match ups between Buehrle and Halladay. Those games were usually over in less than 2 hours.

  2. Andrew - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    There is a rule in place if the pitcher takes too long between pitches (I believe it’s an automatic ball for the hitter if the ump rules the pitcher is taking too long), but the umpires rarely enforce it.

    • Roger Moore - Nov 15, 2010 at 11:39 PM

      That rule only applies if the bases are empty. The pitcher is free to hold the ball for as long as he likes if there are runners on base. Holding the ball for a long time is a well-known strategy for stopping the stolen base. A runner can only keep himself at peak readiness to steal for a little while, after which he has to relax a bit. The pitcher holds the ball until the runner relaxes and then immediately starts his motion. It’s an effective but time consuming approach. I wonder if part of the slow time between pitches for the Yankees and Red Sox is because their organizations teach that approach to controlling the running game.

  3. uyf1950 - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    I hate to bring this up but could it possibly be that the major contributing factor in the length of Yankee and Red Sox games is due to the fact that they are the 2 highest scoring teams. Also, since the Yankees and Red Sox only play each other 18 times out of a 162 game schedule that means for the other 144 games when they play other teams those game are only 10 minutes longer then the example in the article. That comes to a little over one minute per inning for a 9 inning game.

    If MLB is really interested in reducing the length of games, limit the time of “mound conferences”, and players stepping out of the batters box to “adjust” their batting gloves after every pitch. Just these 2 changes would save more then timing the time between pitchers pitches.

    • proudlycanadian - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:54 PM

      In my experience, Yankee hitters take their sweet time at the plate. They are constantly stepping out of the box and have a habit of adjusting themselves (equipment etc.).

      • uyf1950 - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:18 PM

        Your right they do. My post was all inclusive of all players and all teams. Your reply seems to mistakenly assume I was excluding the Yankees in my original comment.

    • scatterbrian - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:33 PM

      Concur. It seems like most Yankees pitchers not named Rivera have trouble getting on the same page as Posada. Dude is constantly running out to the mound…

  4. Kevin S. - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Curious if those “time between pitches” totals account for throw-overs?

    • stchoo - Nov 16, 2010 at 8:43 AM

      Nope. The article mentions is only accounts for when there are no runners on base, because the PitchFX data does not include pickoffs.

  5. Jonny 5 - Nov 15, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    Stepping out of the box kills the most time. Do players need to redo their gloves between every pitch? Half the time is the pitchers waiting for every damn batter to walk out of the box ,do a twirl or two, spit a couple times, then readjust their gloves. Seems to me the Red Sox and Yanks are just being more polite to the batters.

  6. JBerardi - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    “…and there’s just no reason to allow guys like Betancourt and Papelbon to take 30 seconds on every pitch.”

    In fact, there’s every reason to NOT let them do it. Watching Papelbon pitch is excruciating, and there’s absolutely no need for it.

  7. JBerardi - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Also, the Red Sox DID just hire the A’s former pitching coach, so there may be some hope there.

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