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The Yankees are lucky there will be no pitch clock

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Oh, man, New York has some slow pitchers.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

On Monday, the Commissioner’s Office issued new pace-of-play rules for the 2018 season. There had been well-worn rumors that MLB was going to unilaterally install a pitch clock, forcing the player’s union into a situation they’d almost certainly fight against on their own. Instead, baseball is rolling out a limit on catcher’s visits, kicking the can of pitch clocks down the road.

A pitch clock probably is inevitable, and if we’re being honest, I don’t think it would be the worst thing to happen to baseball. As a Yankees fan, though, the possibility of a pitch clock presents a serious problem for the team’s current rotation.

Heading into the first games of Spring Training, it appears the Yankees’ starting rotation will consist of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. Of course, more than these five pitchers will be called upon to make starts in 2018, but the above class should get the lion’s share of starts barring injury or catastrophe. This is an awfully slow group.

There were 134 pitchers in MLB who threw at least 100 innings in 2018. Among those pitchers, the average “pace”, or time it took to deliver a pitch, was 23.6 seconds. The Yankees’ rotation featured three pitchers above the average and a fourth - Sabathia - that was exactly average. Only Severino (22.6 seconds) came in significantly under the mean. Gray, meanwhile, was the slowest pitcher in all of baseball, with a squirm-inducing 28.6 seconds between every pitch.

Part of this is probably by design, and another part by circumstance. The Yankees’ staff is well-known for throwing fewer fastballs than most major league teams; Gray, Montgomery, and Tanaka earn their livings with offspeed and breaking pitches. Deeper repertoires with more pitches, and varying speeds, will naturally increase the time between each individual pitch. Further, the fact that the Yankees essentially had a rookie catcher for most of 2017 probably slowed the game down, as Gary Sanchez was learning his pitcher’s preferences on the fly.

Even after accounting for a pitcher’s arsenal and catching situation, it’s clear the Yankees would be among the teams most affected by a pitch clock. In fact, the only team to have more above-average players on the pace list than the Yankees was the Detroit Tigers. There’s no real correlation between pace and quality of performance, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees’ glacial pace shouldn’t be a concern going forward.

A pitch clock is likely going to come to MLB. It’s been in the minors for two seasons now. As the majors look to shave every possible minute off average game length, it will eventually be on the table in the big leagues. It’s unclear whether Rob Manfred would opt to roll out a clock in phases or all at once, but with a pitching staff that’s mostly under control for the next few seasons, it’d be wise of the Yankees to get ahead of the curve. They should start quickening up their own pace before penalties start being assessed.