No wonder Yankees and Red Sox play never-ending games

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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.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.