Major League Baseball’s war on the pace of play has been ongoing for some time now. New measures have been implemented to make games move faster and take less time. The New York Yankees, however, don’t seem to really care. Since 2012, they have had the slowest starting rotation in the majors. 2016 was no different.
How do I know this? According to a Fangraphs statistics known as Pace—a fun stat they developed to record the average time it takes a pitcher to throw the ball—the Yankees rotation has averaged 23 seconds between pitches over the last five years. This year, despite new policies put into place over the last two seasons, they were even slower at 23.6 seconds.
Fangraphs put together a chart to give us an idea of what value constitutes fast and what means slow. Averaged out over the last five years, the Yankees have hovered just above the threshold of slow. They have outdone themselves in recent years by finally crossing the line to glacial. The uptick in Pace has a lot to do with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda taking up a majority of the team’s starts in that time.
The triumvirate averaged a Pace of 23.6 seconds all by themselves in 2016. Tanaka’s 25.1 ranked 13th in the league, Sabathia’s 24.8 ranked 19th, and Pineda’s 23.8 ranked 46th. Aside from these three, Bryan Mitchell and Ivan Nova also pitched just beyond the criteria for slow with a 23.7 second Pace each. Nathan Eovaldi came in just around below average at 22.7 seconds, and Luis Severino was the only pitcher who sat around average with 21.7 seconds. It all adds up to a team that takes a long time to throw the ball.
What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing, really. It hasn’t been found that Pace has any kind of bearing on results one way or the other. In Fangraphs’ own library entry about the stat, they are clear to mention three different times that Pace does not correlate to on-field performance. Good pitchers are not faster, bad pitchers are not slower, and even if they were, there would be dozens of other factors at work that mean more. Over the last five years, the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Giants round out the slowest four teams, which shows us that there really isn’t a correlation here.
If you’ve ever felt like Yankees games just take too long, things are likely to change fairly soon. In 2017, we are likely to see more from arms like Luis Cessa and Chad Green, both of whom pitch on the faster side. Cessa himself works very quickly, at a Pace of 20.2 seconds, which is designated as fast. Green’s 21.1 is more league average, but it would be much quicker than Nova or Eovaldi. After this season, Tanaka, CC, and Pineda could all be gone from the team. It’s possible that they replace some of them with new veterans, but it’s more than likely the Yankees rotation is about to get a whole lot faster on the mound.