Monday, February 2, 2015

Pace of Play and the Twins

Bud Selig is out as commissioner and Rob Manfred has a variety of issues to tackle as he takes over the reigns of America's past-time.

One issue at the forefront is trying to find a way to speed up the pace of play for major league games. Last year the average MLB game lasted over three hours. This comes at a time with a steady decrease in run scoring as baseball adjusts after the steroid spike around the turn of the century.

Baseball wasn't meant to be this way. Recent years have seen an increase in all of the pitches batters are taking, pitching changes, mound visits, and time between pitches. In just 10 years baseball players have added 29 minutes, 11 seconds of dead time per game while scoring 13.3 percent fewer runs. If that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what will.

How do the Twins rate?
FanGraphs tracks "Pace," a pitcher's average time between pitches in seconds. Just four seasons ago, pitchers averaged 21.5 second between pitches. In 2014, only five Twins pitchers (Lester Oliveros, Michael Tonkin, Aaron Thompson, Caleb Thielbar, and Glen Perkins) were below this mark. Phil Hughes just missed the mark with an average of 21.7 seconds between pitches.

Top 3 Pace (Minimum 20 IP)
1. Caleb Thielbar 21.0
2. Glen Perkins 21.0
3. Phil Hughes 21.7

Bottom 3 Pace (Minimum 20 IP)
1. Kevin Correia 25.0
2. Brian Duensing 24.1
3. Casey Fien 23.9

Minnesota's four longest games this season were all extra-inning affairs with these contests averaging four hours and 42 minutes. The club's five fastest games were all under two hours and 30 minutes. The team even had one 10-inning game in Boston that was completed in just over two and a half hours.

Twins 3 Longest Games of 2014
1. May 1 vs LA Dodgers (12 innings) 5 hours 11 minutes
2. April 23 @ TB Rays (12 innings) 4 hours 48 minutes
3. September 5 vs LA Angels (10 innings) 4 hours 30 minutes

Twins 3 Shortest Games of 2014
1. May 17 vs Seattle Mariners 2 hours 26 minutes
2. August 27 @ KC Royals 2 hours 27 minutes
3. June 28 @ Texas Rangers 2 hours 27 minutes

Between 2000 and 2013, the Twins average time have nine inning games has increased from two hours and 56 minutes to three hours and one minute. During that stretch, the shortest average time was two hours and 37 minutes (2005). There were only two seasons during that stretch where Minnesota's average time was above the average time for MLB.

Finding Solutions
MLB is experimenting with a variety of solutions and the first of these were rolled out in this year's Arizona Fall League. Some of these solutions included a pitch clock, batter's keeping one foot in the batter's box, no-pitch intentional walks, a 2:30 pitching change/inning change clock, and a three "time out" limit. There were mixed reviews but game times did decrease.

MLB's next experimental solution will take place at Double-A and Triple-A this season. The higher levels of the minor leagues will institute pitch clocks this year in an attempt to speed up games. Specifics haven't been ironed out for this yet but change is in the air.

If everything goes smoothly in the upper minors this season, it seems like the first solution might be the institution of a pitch clock. This sweeping change might take a couple of seasons to make it to the big league level but it seems likely that one of the first changes under the Manfred regime will revolve around pace of play.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Manfred should speak with former Northern League commissioner Miles Wolff and see how the pitch & inning clocks worked in the Northern League in the mid-late 90's. The NoL scrapped their clocks, but I'm not sure the reasoning behind it.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

Interesting. I'm sure they've done some research