When John Farrell took over as the manager of the Red Sox and Juan Nieves came on board as the pitching coach, the early stories out of Spring Training were that the Red Sox pitching, which had crashed and burned in 2012, was going to pick up the pace. I was one that had applauded the notion as the Red Sox pitchers were notoriously slow workers. After the season is all said and done, how did that work out? Did the Red Sox pitchers work more quickly?
No matter what answers are found here, you cannot complain about the results. You cannot improve upon winning the World Series. So give Farrell and Nieves all the credit in the world and nobody can argue with you. All I am interested here is whether their goal was met when it came to pace.
Let's take a look:
Pitcher: 2013, 2012, 2011 (in seconds)
- Jon Lester: 23.2, 23.2, 24.2
- Clay Buchholz: 24.2, 25.6, 26.7
- John Lackey: 22.3, ---, 23.1
- Felix Doubront: 22.9, 23.9, 27.1
- Franklin Morales: 23.5, 24.2, 25.8
Team: 23.4, 24.1, 24.7 - sixth slowest, first slowest, first slowest
The final results do see a slight quickening of pace for the Red Sox over 2012. After being the slowest pitching staff for two years in a row, they tied for the sixth slowest in 2013. Buchholz and Doubront seemed to get the message the clearest and were markedly improved. Others, not so much. And pitchers like Lackey and Dempster worked with a much quicker pace (both around 20 seconds) before they came to the Red Sox. So take that as you will.
The other story line from Spring Training was pounding the strike zone more. Again, there was only slight improvement:
- First pitch strikes: 60.0% (2013), 59.8% (2012), 59.1% (2011)
- Zone percentage: 44.3% (2013), 44.7 (2012), 45.1% (2013)
- Walks per nine: 3.24 (2013), 3.30 (2012), 3.33 (2011)
As I look at these numbers, I see where Nieves had an effect on two of his starting pitchers and a slight, but largely insignificant improvement on "attacking the strike zone." I guess the moral of the story is not to get too wrapped up in stories out of Spring Training.
The other moral of the story is not to complain about success because the Red Sox had it in abundance.