I read with interest David Brown’s reporting of a warning the Dodgers received from Major League Baseball about their pitchers being too slow delivering pitches. The piece interested me because the pace of some players (or lack of it to put it properly) is a pet peeve of mine. As soon as I read the piece, I thought of Josh Beckett because he has always been slow. But he isn’t the main culprit. And if the truth is told, the Dodgers are baseball’s biggest time problem.
As Brown points out, the Dodgers are the third slowest team when it comes to a nine-inning game behind the Rays and the Yankees. One would hope that the two teams ahead of the Dodgers received the same warnings. But as usual, nothing will become of any of it. Brown also pointed out the fines issued for slow play are a mere pittance and will cause no significant behavior modifications.
If you do a custom search on Fangraphs.com’s leaderboard to add pace to the mix, the Dodgers have two slow starters in the top 25 slowest pitchers to the plate. Zack Greinke is thirteenth and Clayton Kershaw is 23rd. Both of those pitchers make a gazillion dollars and neither is going to worry about a $5,000 fine. Heck, they probably spend that once a week taking teammates out to eat.
But the Yankees have two in the top ten in Masahiro Tanaka (ninth) and Hiroki Kuroda (fourth). The Rays hold the top three spots as Chris Archer, Erik Bedard and David Price ALL average over 26 seconds to the plate. That is ridiculous.
I don’t watch a lot of Rays’ games, but I do watch the Yankees every day and those two Yankee pitchers are ball rubbers (boy, that sounds bad). And since the game has changed drastically in my lifetime and a baseball is replaced if someone sneezes, the pitchers are always getting new balls.
Both Tanaka and Kuroda throw the splitter and put a lot of balls in the dirt. So they are always getting new balls. They always rub the baseballs when receiving a new one. That adds to the time. I don’t know how you fix that except by reverting back to the days when a baseball had to be nearly cover-less before it was replaced.
The Rays as a team are the slowest staff in baseball. The entire team averages 26.6 seconds to deliver the ball on average. The closest team to them is the Giants at 24.6 seconds. That is a major difference. I have always respected the pitching coach for the Rays, but face it, the Rays aren’t pitching all that well this year and their fielders are not fielding that well either. Maybe they should speed it up a little. At this point, it couldn’t hurt.
Whereas the Dodgers’ starters aren’t as slow as the Yankees’ or the Rays’ starters, the bullpen is slower than death. J.P. Howell and Chris Withrow (may his elbow rest in peace) both averaged over 28 seconds and Kenley Jansen and Jamey Wright both average well over 26 seconds. Those are numbers that used to be reached only by Jose Valverde and now we have an entire bullpen that slow. Come on now.
We shouldn’t focus on just the pitching. Batters determine pace too. Every batter in baseball seems to have to adjust their batting gloves, body armor and the like to hit a baseball after every pitch. It has gotten terrible. Derek Jeter has gotten slower as he ages and has become a culprit as well. Are you old enough to remember Jeter making fun of Nomar Garciaparra at the All Star Game. Now he is just as bad as Nomar ever was averaging over 25 seconds in between pitches and he is the 14th slowest in baseball.
Troy Tulowitzki, who wears the Number 2 on his back because of Jeter is currently the slowest batter as far as pace goes. He is over 27 seconds, which is terrible. He is one of three over the 27 second threshold. There is also Hanley Ramirez and Danny Espinosa. The Dodgers have three in the top twenty with Yasiel Puig at Number 7 and Matt Kemp at Number 16.
Dodgers’ batters are the slowest as a group followed by a tie of the Rockies and Brewers. The quickest team to step into the box is the Toronto Blue Jays at 22 seconds. And the way they are hitting shows that you don’t need all that extra time to get the job done.
It is no wonder why we like guys like Mark Buehrle so much. Get the ball and fire. That’s the way it should be. It is up to baseball to stop all the walking around out of the batters’ box in between pitches and all the walks around the mound. It is in MLB’s purview to enforce its own rules and starting handing out balls for not delivering the ball on time. And forcing guys into the batters’ box. But MLB doesn’t have the gumption to do so. And little gnat sting fines are not going to change anything.