Peter Gammons: Pitchers working fast could benefit more than just pace of play

Back in the late 1970’s, Oriole pitchers used to wear t-shirts inspired by George Bamberger and Ray Miller that read, “work fast, throw strikes, change speeds.” Simple. “It still applies,” says John Farrell.

When working on a piece on the relationship between Greg Maddux and Eddie Perez, Maddux said, “what Eddie does is get the ball back to me in no more than two seconds after every pitch. He allows me to control the tempo of the game.”

The year that Mike Flanagan won the Cy Young Award, 1979, he discussed the Oriole pitching philosophy by standing on a mound, baseball in hand, and said, “the pitcher controls the game. He is the offense. Nothing happens until he throws the ball. He initiates the action. The batter reacts to what the pitcher does, so he is the reactor, he is the defense, the pitcher the offense.”

Then one goes and watches a big-time college game where catchers are checking numbers on their arms, looking into the dugout for signs, and after a throw-over or three, there are a good 40 seconds between pitches. I remember watching a University of Virginia game on TV one night and screaming, “no one would violate the speed limit in that state if the punishment were sitting through a four hour game in Charlottesville.”

Writing about Chris Sale last week, I mentioned how he took Mark Buehrle’s advice, worked quickly (both were in the top six in shortest time between pitches,  2010-2017). In discussing Sale’s pace and how much his teammates loved playing behind him, one catcher mentioned how much better Clay Buchholz might have been had he not been so deliberate between pitches, then went on to say it is hard to set up with close to a perfect presentation and hold it for 30 to 40 seconds.

Buehrle and Sale believe that working quickly doesn’t allow hitters to get set or think. Scouts watching Carlos Martinez Tuesday night said he did not allow Marlins batters to get set. “He doesn’t give his catcher time to keep looking in the dugout or to come out to the mound and break his rhythm,” said one. “It was wonderful.” And one veteran manager asked, “how great could Justin Verlander be if he didn’t shake off ten pitches an inning and having two or three meetings on the mound.”

This is one place pace of game and real baseball intersect. “I just don’t understand why teams don’t try to teach working quickly in the minors,” said one executive Wednesday. “We don’t need analytics preparing pitch selection. The pitchers and the catchers should create a pace and work off what they see hitters trying to do. Computers can’t see how batters change their position in the batter’s box or how they drop their hands or move their feet. Bob Boone used to talk about watching every move a hitter took in his setup. Pedro Martinez would watch a hitter set up and know how to attack him.

 

FASTEST WORKERS: (Seconds Between Pitches)

Jason Vargas          18.7

R.A. Dickey             18.9

Amir Garrett          18.9

Michael Wacha      19.0

Carlos Martinez     19.4

Kyle Hendricks      19.7

Luis Severino         20.0

Tyler Chatwood    20.0

Jered Weaver         20.2

Chris Sale                 20.4

 

SLOWEST WORKERS(Seconds Between Pitches)

Matt Andriese        28.0

Chris Archer           26.6

Alex Cobb                 26.6

Yu Darvish               26.3

Matt Shoemaker    26.3

Zack Greinke           26.2

Daniel Norris           26.0

Justin Verlander    25.9

Julio Teheran          25.6

Phil Hughes              25.6

Would Chris Archer be better, more efficient, more dominating if he worked quicker. Could Daniel Norris be more effective? Alex Cobb?

Perhaps what the pitching division of organizational development should do is think it out, see what happens if they go to instincts and pace and rhythm and leave the analysis to start-to-start preparation. It’s worth considering. Work Fast, Throw Strikes, Change Speeds might get starting pitchers to the seventh inning more frequently, reduce standing around and make for a more entertaining game.

Comments

  1. “Computers can’t see how batters change their position in the batter’s box or how they drop their hands or move their feet. Bob Boone used to talk about watching every move a hitter took in his setup. Pedro Martinez would watch a hitter set up and know how to attack him.”

    This suggests a slower pace is better – gives you time to read the hitter.

    Presumably we can aggregate stats based on time between pitches and actually see what works better. If some pitchers are inconsistent in how much time they spend, they’d be good for a “twin study.”

  2. steve Hampton says:

    Gammons is best there is…Alex spier of 108 stitches catching up…..like gammons just the facts, mam…subject verb object….the way most hitters are these days, the sooner the pitch penetrates their zone of intellectual confusion the quicker they SO or dribble to 1st

  3. A pitcher working fast is also good for the defense because it keeps the fielders on their toes and ready to react.
    A pitcher taking too long results in fielders flat on their feet in relaxed not-ready mode.