Yesterday, Jeff Zimmerman noted on FanGraphs that the 2014 Rays are the slowest team in MLB history. Overall, the Rays have averaged 24.9 seconds between pitches, most in the PITCHf/x era (since 2007). Yes, pace matters to the viewing experience, but with this recent west coast road trip, I find myself caring more about length than I do about pace, and Rays games are long right now. I decided to take a closer look at who's fault it is that we're all so tired.
Outs, not Pitches
Pace, as available from FanGraphs, is the time between pitches. Baseball, though, is measured in outs. The inning ends when a team makes three outs. The game ends when a team makes 27 outs. To ascribe blame for the long games, we need to find who's taking the longest time between outs. I've done that for all Hitters with at least 10 plate appearances, and all pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched. Feel free to download and play around with those spreadsheets. Sorry that they're a bit messy. Don't worry about the averages not matching up. They're slightly different samples, and different groupings within the samples. Also, this topic is not very important.
Hitters or Pitchers?
So are the long Rays games mostly the fault of the Rays pitchers or the Rays hitters? Well, to different degrees, both. Rays hitters have been taking 134.6 seconds between outs, seventh most in the majors. The average is 123.5 seconds per out, and the Braves have made outs the quickest, at a ridiculous 104.7 seconds per out. The Rays accomplish this fact both by seeing a lot of pitches (5.7 pitches per out, eighth most), and working at a slow pace (23.4 seconds per pitch, fourth most). Of course, hitter pace has a lot to do with their opposing pitcher, but they do have some control over it by stepping out of the box, readjusting their gloves, etc.
The pitching side, though, is where the Rays really drag. They're taking 160.3 seconds per out there, slowest in baseball, nearly 20 seconds slower than the second place Dodgers, and nearly 30 seconds more than average. The Athletics are fastest at a paltry 117.1 seconds per out. Breaking that number down, the Rays take seventh most pitches to record an out (5.9 pitches compared to a 5.7 pitch per out average), and take easily the longest between each pitch. Their pace number is a whopping 27.1 seconds per pitch, far above the 23.2 second average.
Breaking Down the Pitchers
So, if it's the hitters' fault, who exactly is taking all that time? Let's start with pace. Average is 23.2 seconds per pitch
Almost no one works fast, but a few work very slowly. For instance, Peralta is the slowest pitcher in baseball. Lueke is third, Balfour is fifth, Gomes is seventh, and Oviedo is sixteenth. Erik Bedard is the slowest starter overall.
On to efficiency (average of 5.71 second per out):
|Pitcher||Pitches per Out|
Grant Balfour has not pitched fast. Nor has he pitched efficiently. Fourteenth least efficient pitcher in baseball. Jake Odorizzi undoes his fast work by having been the 25th least efficient pitcher overall, and the second least efficient starter behind only Brandon Morrow (I think -- I may not recognize some NL pitchers as starters).
So now for the total number. How many seconds per out has each pitcher taken?
Good grief. The average is 133 seconds per out. Not a single Rays pitcher is above average. The terrible tandem of Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta are numbers two and three in the league.
Breaking Down the Hitters
Which Rays hitters have taken up the most time? Let's start with pace, where the average is 22.4 seconds per pitch.
This makes sense to me. Ryan Hanigan does like to step out and collect himself.
Now let's look at which Rays hitters make the opposing pitchers work the hardest. This is both a factor of seeing a lot of pitches and not making outs. Average is 5.5 pitches per out.
|Hitter||Pitches per Out|
Well, on that front, David DeJesus is getting it done. He's 28th in all of baseball. The guys in front of him are mostly people with unsustainably high on base percentages in a small sample size. If I were to limit it to people with over 100 PAs, the list would go: Troy Tulowitzki, Shin-So Choo, Mike Napoli, Joey Votto, Adam LaRoche, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Dunn, Carlos Santana, David DeJesus. That's not a bad list to be on.
The other side of the table is Jose Molina, who's way down at the bottom of the league with Billy Hamilton and a bunch of pitchers. You can blame Molina for many things, but you can't blame him for the long games and late nights.
Finally, who's taking all the time?
|Hitter||Seconds per Out|
The league average here is 123.5 seconds, and once more, DeJesus is at the top as the 13th slowest batter in baseball (fourth slowest if you remove the small sample size OBP wonders). Maybe I just don't GET baseball, and maybe I'm in the minority here, but time be damned. I'd rather watch David DeJesus bat than Jose Molina.