Friday, April 09, 2010

Umpire Calls Yankees and Red Sox Slow

Umpire Joe West has called out the Red Sox and Yankees for playing the game too slowly. You know what? He's probably right. But is he really? Well, thank goodness for because all the dirty facts and figures are right there waiting for the right spreadsheet to come along. So after looking at the numbers, is West right? Yes.

The numbers confirm what most of us seemed to think anyway. The Yankees and Red Sox are the slowest playing teams in baseball. And you know who is right with them? The Dodgers, managed by former Yankee skipper, Joe Torre. The numbers? The Fan didn't really want to take the time to compile every team's 2009 game times, so a sampling was collected. It seems to be a large enough sample to prove the point anyway. But if you think the Fan cheated or was too lazy, just comment and we'll get them all for you.

2009 Average Game Times (a sample):

  • Yankees - 3:13
  • Red Sox - 3:06
  • Cubs - 2:51 (despite what seems like constant pitching changes)
  • Dodgers - 3:08 (did Torre start this trend while with Yanks?)
  • Royals - 2:54
  • Twins - 2:57
  • Cardinals - 2:48
  • Angels - 2:56
  • Rockies - 2:56
  • Phillies - 2:55

That's your sample size. It seems adequate. But what about extra inning games? They do take longer. But each of these teams had at least nine extra inning games and the most was sixteen. So the most logical way to look at it is to add up all the innings (thus including the extra frames) and dividing it by the total time to get a "time per inning". Take the average game time and turn it into minutes. That would make the average Yankee game at 193 minutes. Multiply that by the amount of innings they played (in the Yankees' case, it was the third highest in the American League) and you get the total minutes. For the Yankees, that was 31,266 minutes. Now divide that by the number of innings and you get the time per inning played. In the Yankees case, that comes to 21.56 minutes per inning. Doing the same thing with the Royals and you get 19.17 minutes. Doesn't seem like a lot does it?

But consider that the Yankees played 3564 minutes longer than the Royals. That might have been merciful for the Royals' fans. Over the course of the season, that's 59.4 hours more Yankee baseball than Royals' baseball.

So yeah, the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Dodgers play longer than anyone else. Why exactly? One commenter over at thinks that it may be because those three teams are more patient than others and more pitches means more time. Could be. The Fan doesn't have enough juice left in him to figure it out today.

But part of it probably is the belief by those three teams that every game is crucial. They play every game like there is no tomorrow. That means a lot of strategy, a lot of meetings on the mound. It's a deliberate approach that seems to shout that these teams care more about the outcome than on how long it takes to get there. There is one problem with that argument though.

Nobody works more in-game maneuvers than LaRussa and Piniella. They are constantly playing with the pitching match ups and changing players around. Have you ever seen a Cardinal box score? The second batter in the order may get two at bats and then there are five other guys in that slot the rest of the game. It takes an hour to get to see what Pujols did. Well...that's an exaggeration of course, but you get what the Fan is saying. If LaRussa and Piniella are such do or die managers, why aren't their game times as high as the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers?

It has to come down to the peccadilloes and routines of those teams and their managers. It seems that Nomar Garciaparra started today's trend of fidgeting with his entire batting equipment after every pitch. Now everyone on the Yankees and Red Sox do that. Jeter does. Manny does. A-Rod does. They all do. Add in the amount of mound visits that Posada makes over the course of a game and it all adds up.

Does it really matter? In some ways it does. Who wants to go to bed at 12:30 in the morning after watching another marathon Yankees' game? It gives announcers more time to get themselves (and us) into trouble because they have to talk more. It bores the casual fan and may perpetuate the feeling that baseball is a lot more boring than other sports. For the record, the average NFL game lasts about five minutes longer than the average baseball game. And from what the Fan understands, only about ten percent of a football telecast is about actual play on the field. But perceptions become reality and thus become a problem for baseball.

The other problem is the young fan. In order to ensure success as a brand for the future, the young fans need to be encouraged to follow the sport. For the average parent, the price of an outing to a game is prohibitive enough without the possibility that a young child will not get out of the stadium until after 11:00 o'clock never mind what time they get to bed.

For die hard fans like this writer, it doesn't matter. The give and take of a game is more than worth the time spent watching it. But even for folks like us, ten throws over to first when the runner is a foot off the bag is enough to send us into a dervish. And yeah, Posada's trips to the mound get really annoying. So does replacing the baseball any time it comes into contact with the ground.

West and his crew are following their boss's dictum and are trying to speed up the game. They are refusing the batter time at least half the time when it's asked for, and rightly so. But they are powerless to stop the mound trips by a catcher. Why not limit them to two just like the coach or manager?

A lot of Yankee and Red Sox fans are calling West a bunch of names. A lot of times baseball people rightly get flack for spouting opinions based on what they see happening. But in this case, the facts back up the statement. Three teams in baseball take longer than all the other teams. So give West a break. He has to get some sleep too you know.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Joe West needs to keep his mouth shut. Not the place of an umpire to call an aspect of the best rivalry in sports "embarrassing and pathetic." If you don't like the pace of the game, Joe, widen your strike zone. Or better yet, do us all a favor and retire.