Over the winter, new commissioner Rob Manfred made pace of play one of his primary agendas, talking openly about removing some of the standing around time in between plays, and even experimenting with a pitch clock to convince everyone to move things along a little faster. It was a point of emphasis for the league, and is likely going to be one of the primary storylines of the early part of the 2015 season. So, while we only have 15 games in the books so far, did the threat of fines speed things up at all on day one?
Take this with as many grains of salt as you can find, because again, 15 games, but on the first day of the season, things did move along a at a slightly brisker pace than in previous years.
Here’s starting pitcher pace during the PITCHF/x era:
And here’s reliever pace from the same time frame.
Starting pitchers were down about half a second from last year’s average time between pitches; relievers were down nearly a second and a half. When you add those changes up over the 4,000 pitches thrown yesterday, you find a reduction of about 48 minutes, or a little over three minutes per game.
That’s not a life-changing figure, and the time between pitches yesterday was still higher than it was from 2007-2011, but I wouldn’t think that walking back years of slowing pace is going to happen overnight. Even just beginning to reverse the trend would be a good first step, and the league could make small incremental steps back towards 20 seconds between pitches. And that’s essentially what we saw yesterday; good small steps.
Again, 15 games. It’s going to take a lot more than one day before we can draw any conclusions, and it’s possible that everyone is just abiding by the rules early on and then hoping to go back to their old way of doing things once people stop paying as close of attention. But for the first day of 2015, at least, things were a little quicker. Here’s to hoping this continues.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.
Any idea is there could be some sort of first game bias? Admittedly 15 games will be extremely noisy, but how do the first 15 games of each season (07-14) compare with the rest of the season? Chances are that the noise will dwarf any type of signal and I imagine there’s probably little to no signal, but I’m still curious.
Along those same lines I wonder if pitchers will take more time as it gets hotter. I work a lot slower when it’s miserable hot, so why wouldn’t they?
Yeah, these are presumably each team’s best pitcher going yesterday (at least the starters). It’s not exactly a random sample.