Pace of game is all the rage, or something. While the average pace between which pitchers has increased over the last six years, it’s really not that big a deal in my eyes. I’m not one who wants a “faster” baseball game. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it isn’t an absolutely necessary thing for me.
Where do the Dodgers pitchers stack up? Let’s first look at where the staff as a whole has ranked since 2009:
While admittedly flawed because of roster turnover, the Dodgers are still consistently in the bottom-third of baseball in terms of pitcher pace (save 2012). During this time, the average is 22.0 seconds, so the Dodgers’ ranking makes sense. Somehow, I don’t remember this story from last year about MLB being upset that Dodger pitchers were taking too long to get to the mound and the time between pitches.
“And Major League Baseball has noticed. The Dodgers have been warned by MLB in the form of a letter from executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre.
The warning cited a number of Dodgers pitchers for their violations of baseball’s ‘pace of game’ regulations. A number of relievers were cited for taking too long to get from the bullpen to the mound when entering the game. Continued violations could result in $5,000 fines though none of the players have been fined to date.
Surprisingly, no position players were warned about the amount of time they spend out of the batter’s box. Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig, in particular, have extended at-bats because of their deliberate walks from the on-deck circle and long resets between pitches.”
Of course there is the obligatory dig at Ramirez and Puig. Makes me wonder if Bill Plunkett or someone else — perhaps one or two people on Dodger Talk — wrote the article. But I digress.
I then saw this tweet last week that inspired me to look further into this:
@mike_petriello A tiny victory. Was just looking and saw that Joel Peralta took 32.1 seconds between pitches last year to lead all pitchers.
— D.J. Short (@djshort) February 20, 2015
Wow, 32.1 seconds? That’s Rafael Betancourt-esque. Seriously, Peralta makes Josh Beckett look like Mark Buehrle. Here are the five fastest-paced pitchers the Dodgers had in 2014:
Dan Haren, 19.7
Hyun-jin Ryu, 20.8
Paul Maholm, 21.4
Carlos Frias, 21.6
Chris Perez, 22.4
… and the five slowest-paced pitchers:
Jamey Wright, 26.0
Kenley Jansen, 26.7
J.P. Howell, 28.1
Chris Withrow, 28.3
Pedro Baez, 29.0
… and finally, a look at some of the new pitchers brought in:
Brett Anderson, 19.0
Mike Bolsinger, 20.8
Brandon McCarthy, 21.4
Juan Nicasio, 23.9
Chris Hatcher, 24.1
Dustin McGowan, 24.7
Sergio Santos, 26.1
Joel Peralta, 32.1
There’s a trend. It seems relievers take longer between pitches than starters do. That is almost assuredly because relievers are — for the most part — pitching in higher leverage situations more frequently than starters. That isn’t to say starters don’t have stressful batters faced and/or innings, but relievers — especially late-inning ones — have them more often.
With the new additions, you wouldn’t expect the time of the average Dodger game to decrease. But if MLB is hell bent on enforcing the pre-existing rules, then perhaps the time will go down all around baseball.
Check the times in this tweet from former (and wrongfully dismissed) Dodgers’ general manager Dan Evans:
Pace of game concern is not unique to MLB (avg 3:08 in 2014) – Japan's Pacific League at 3:23 and its Central League 3:21 last season..
— Dan Evans (@DanEvans108) February 23, 2015
And then this from new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred (via Bill Shakin):
Manfred: "I certainly want to reverse the trend of increasing length of game" – wants game time to start with 2:XX instead of 3:XX.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 23, 2015
Manfred is living in a fantasy land if he thinks the average time of MLB games is going to ever begin with a “2,” followed by a number less than, let’s say, 45. The only way this happens is if advertising/commercial times are cut, and that would take money out of the owners’ and MLB’s pockets, so that absolutely isn’t happening. And let’s be clear: Manfred isn’t talking about games being 2 hours, 59 minutes long. I’m sure he’s thinking in the 2:30-2:45 range.
Yes, the casual fan isn’t going to stick around for a 3-plus-hour game, and if Manfred’s aim is to increase the casual fan’s interest, I can see how reducing average time of a game is one way to go. But honestly, if MLB somehow finds a way to get the average time down to 2:XX, it’s still going to be nearly a 3-hour commitment. These new pace rules aren’t going to cut 30-45 minutes off the average MLB game.
Or, maybe MLB just needs to use its untold billions to try to clone a ton of Greg Madduxes (Madduxi?), as that’s the only surefire way to have games finish in a timely manner that is “acceptable” for the casual fan. But know this, the die-hard fan doesn’t really care about the length of the game. Maybe trying to instill baseball and making it easier to play for kids growing up is the true way to get more casual-turned-die-hard fans to watch baseball.
Dodger games don’t figure to be much quicker than the MLB average. I’d venture a guess that, despite MLB looking to enforce the “pace of play” rules this year (and beyond), the Dodgers will still be in the bottom-third of the league. This is fine for Chad and myself, but Daniel and Mike aren’t really going to benefit from the enforcement or the new additions.