A hidden joy of pitch f/X data is, it time-stamps every pitch thrown. This lets you determine the average time taken by each pitcher, to get the ball back, wander around the mound a bit, take up position on the rubber, agree on a pitch with their battery-mate, and finally deliver the ball. You might think this kind of thing would be relatively standard, and take about the same amount of time for all pitchers, but that's absolutely not so.
Here are the figures for all the Diamondback pitchers from 2013.
|Eury De la Rosa||19.9|
That's quite a chasm between Miley and Putz: nearly 50%, or put another way, Wade will almost throw three pitches, in the time it takes J.J. to get off two. This isn't random chance or Putz being particularly sluggish this season either. Indeed, he's actually picked up the pace from the previous season - albeit from "arthritic sloth on a tablet of Xanax" to "arthritic sloth on half a tab of Xanax". In 2012, Putz was again the slowest worker on the Diamondbacks, taking 28.4 seconds per pitch. And at the other end, Miley and Paterson were the two quickest, Joe fractionally edging out Wade. 2011? Putz was slowest again.
We've only got this data going back to 2007, but in that time, Putz has three of the four slowest season paces in franchise history. the all-time #1 was Jose Valverde in 2007, who took 29.5 seconds between pitches. And, remarkably, Papa Grande - or as he should probably be called, Papa Lento - has got even slower since leaving Arizona. His 2012 season with the Tigers set the major-league mark, at an incredible average of 32.8 seconds between pitches. That's less than one-half the pace of the quickest pitcher over the same time, Mark Buerhle, whose 2011 campaign unfolded at a lightning-fast 15.9 second clip.
Speed is as much a part of Buerhle's make-up as lack of speed is for Valverde or Putz: Nine pitchers (min 20 IP) have season times below 17 seconds: Buerhle is five of them. At the other end of the spectrum, maybe it's something to do with closers being particularly deliberate. Because if you look at the ten slowest seasons, they are owned by Rafael Betancourt (3), Jonathan Papelbon (3), Joel Peralta (two, including last year's champion, dethroning Valverde with a time of 31.9 seconds), Jonathan Broxton and Valverde. It's a save situation. There's no point in rushing things, is there?
Back when he was closing things out for Seattle, Putz discussed his deliberate approach. "The whole key is to slow things down. Never speed up. This game's hard enough at a normal speed. When you let it get faster, you start hearing the crowd, start thinking about something other than your next pitch. Pretty soon you've given up a four-spot and you're wondering, What just happened?" The piece also describes Putz thus: "He moves slowly, the way only large creatures can -- oxen or lions or 250-pound righthanders... Before games, he glides through the Mariners' clubhouse gradually, like a container ship crossing Puget Sound."
Conversely, Miley wants to work quickly, but does appear to be aware of the potential dangers that poses, echoing Putz's warning in this area. "You want to get a good rhythm going. That's when you have success. Earlier, I was getting upset with myself after one or two small mistakes, and it's kind of snowballed. I get too quick and I'm just firing it up there, no mindset, no thought." Still, Putz should probably be grateful the umpires give him a lot of leeway in this area, because among the least-enforced of all MLB rules currently states as follows:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
I think we can safely say Miguel Montero is not holding on to the ball for 16 seconds, before throwing it back to J.J. Obviously, on occasion, the batter may not immediately be ready to receive the pitch, particularly after a foul ball. But it would certainly be interesting to see a game where the umpires worked strictly to the benchmark above. With the average pace in baseball last season being 22.6 seconds per pitch, it probably wouldn't only be J.J. Putz who gets forced into a hurry-up offense.