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.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.