If you watch a lot of baseball you know that there are certain pitchers who catch a lot of flack for taking their sweet time on the mound and slowing down games. But how about the batters who have their own little rituals that they perform before stepping into the batter’s box before every pitch? Fortunately FanGraphs has that covered with their new “Batter Pace” statistic which measures the average time that elapses between each pitch that a batter sees. Obviously some of this pacing correlates to the pitcher who is on the mound, but measured across 600+ plate appearances during a season it becomes clear that there are some hitters who simply work at a slower pace than others when they step to the plate.
Not surprisingly, some of the worst offenders are Yankees and Red Sox. Carlos Pena holds the dubious distinction of having the slowest batting pace in baseball (28.4 seconds between pitches), but Robinson Cano is right behind him at #2 (26.8 seconds). Also in the top-20 are Derek Jeter (24.5), David Ortiz (23.9), Brett Gardner(23.8), Nick Swisher (23.7), and Dustin Pedroia (23.2). (For comparison, Michael Bourn has the fastest batting pace at 18.6 seconds, followed by Ichiro at 19.1.) Couple these numbers with a start by Josh Beckett – who was once timed as taking a whopping 51 seconds between pitches during a game in 2011 – and it is no surprise that 4+ hour marathon games are common when the Yankees and Red Sox meet up.
Of course, having a slow batting-pace doesn’t necessarily affect the time of play if a guy doesn’t see many pitches during his PAs, or if he simply doesn’t get as many PAs as other guys in the league. This is where the guys at Beyond the Boxscore come in. They measured exactly how much time each major leaguer spent at the plate in 2011 and compiled the following graphic:
As we would expect, Pedroia and Swisher are right up there as guys who spent the most time at the plate last season. More surprising is Curtis Granderson, who is the 111th slowest batter in the MLB with a pace of 20.8 seconds. Of course, Granderson had 692 PAs last season, which is far more than all of the other guys on the left side of the above graphic except Pedroia and Joey Votto. Couple the additional PAs with the fact that Granderson saw 4.44 pitches per PA last season as opposed to Swisher’s 4.07, and we are able to see why Grandy ranks above Swisher for total time at the plate even though Swish takes nearly 3 seconds longer between each pitch.
So where does the rest of the Yankees lineup rank in terms of how much time they spent at the plate last season? We’ll start with Cano, Jeter, and Gardner, since they have some of the slowest batting paces in all of baseball. Cano had a total of 681 PAs last season during which he saw 2,340 pitches (3.43/PA). Taking into account the 26.8 seconds Cano spent on average between pitches we can determine that he spent a total of 12 hours and 21 minutes at the plate last season. Derek had a total of 607 PAs and a total of 2,337 pitches (3.85/PA), giving him a total of 11 hours and 46 minutes at the plate. In Gardner’s case, he had 588 PAs for a total of 2,466 pitches (4.19/PA). He spent a total of 12 hours and 25 minutes at the plate. As for the rest of the regulars…
Mark Teixeira: 12 hours and 13 minutes (2,818 pitches over 684 PAs = 4.12/PA)
Alex Rodriguez: 7 hours and 35 minutes (1,648 pitches over 428 PAs = 3.85/PA)
Russell Martin: 7 hours and 39 minutes (1,728 pitches over 476 PAs = 3.63/PA)
So what does all this tell us? Those who get perturbed by the length of games might disagree, but I’d like to see Cano and Jeter spend more time at the plate in 2012. Considering that they are guys with some of the slowest batting paces in baseball, the approximately 12 hours each spent at the plate last season is a testament to the fact that neither sees enough pitches during each plate appearance, and both need to be more patient in 2012. The same can be said for A-Rod and definitely for Martin, even though they have smaller sample sizes because they had fewer PAs.
And finally, just to stir the pot, did you notice that Jeter and A-Rod saw the exact same number of pitches per plate appearance last season? Geez, does this A-Rod guy have to copy everything the Captain does? Tsk tsk…