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Games are slower, in part, because of pitcher velocity

Pedro Baez

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez stands on the mound after giving up a grand slam to San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. San Francisco won the game 12-6. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

AP

Recently, in the wake of Noah Syndergaard’s injury, we talked about velocity and the maximal effort exerted by pitchers in throwing each pitch. We talked about how, simply as a matter of observation, pitchers seem to take longer between pitches, in part to maximize the energy available. About how we hear them talk about “executing pitches” all the time, with each of the 90-100 pitches they make each game being treated like an individual performance, each of which can be judged as successful or not.

Today at FiveThirtyEight, Rob Arthur puts some numbers to all of that and concludes, not surprisingly, that there is a pretty strong correlation between the dramatic uptick in velocity we’ve seen over the past decade or so and the length of games, which has grown longer over that time. Seems that, yep, pitchers are taking longer precisely because doing so gives them extra ticks on the radar gun.

Indeed, Arthur finds that for every additional second pitchers take between pitches, they throw about .02 miles per hour harder. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but as Arthur demonstrates, each little bit adds up. Those seconds, over 100-150 pitchers per team per game add up in time, obviously. And, based on past research Arthur cites regarding the correlation between pitcher velocity and pitcher effectiveness, those miles per hour add up in terms of team wins.

All of which adds some spice to the whole game length/game pace debate. We’d all like to see things move along more quickly, but doing so will likely impact player effectiveness, which will in turn make it harder to get teams and players to agree to measures designed to speed things up.

Follow @craigcalcaterra