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I thought this was an issue that had gone away, but Joe West decided to dredge it up again last night when speaking to The Record:
“They’re the two clubs that don’t try to pick up the pace,” said West, the chief of the umpiring crew working the three-game series, according to the report. “They’re two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest?
“It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play,” he said, according to the report.
The common response from Yankees fans is that these games simply have more pitches thrown and pitching changes, and that the longer game times are simply a natural extension of the game. Let’s take a closer look at the 2009 numbers (all numbers are rounded off).
Average Game Time
Red Sox: 3:04
Lg. Avg: 2:52
Total Pitches Per Game (includes for and against)
Red Sox: 306
Lg. Avg: 294.6
Pitches Per Minute (and, for your convenience, Minutes Per Pitch)
Yankees: 1.62 (.617)
Red Sox: 1.66 (.601)
Lg. Avg: 1.71 (.584)
Now, these numbers are certainly not definitive, as forcing more pitches will typically force the opposing club to make more pitching changes, which can add 3-5 minutes to a game. Furthermore, more pitches will usually mean more positive offensive events, which tend to add time to a game as well. Finally, these numbers do not differentiate between the Yankees or Red Sox and their opponents. The Yankees threw significantly fewer pitches than their opponents, so who is to say where the responsibility lies for extended game times under those circumstances?
However, simply looking at the data shows that Yankees’ games do take a bit more time per pitch. A Yankee game of 304.3 pitches at the league average rate of .584 minutes per pitch would result in games of 2:58 rather than 3:08 (Red Sox games should be taking 2:59). While 10 extra minutes are not catastrophic, they are not insignificant either. Let’s take a look at the 3 games in this series that prompted the outburst by West:
326 pitches, 3:46 game time, 1.44 PPM, expected game time using lg. avg. MPP 3:10
333 pitches, 3:48 game time, 1.46 PPM, EGT 3:15
308 pitches, 3:21 game time, 1.53 PPM, EGT 3:00
Yes, all of the caveats I noted above still apply, and games with more runs (or extra innings) are likely to be longer, but Joe West had good reason to be upset last night. These games are dragged out by frequent mound visits, pitchers stepping off, and batters stepping out, among other things. While the slower nature of these contests may add tension and suspense for fans of the two clubs, it is likely hurting the entertainment value of the games for other baseball fans.
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