Major League Baseball has started sending written warnings to players who have violated the new pace-of-game rules. Hitters are now required to nearly always keep one foot in the batter's box. MLB spokesman Mike Teevan said Wednesday about 10 letters had been sent since the start of the season last weekend. Penalties for violating the new rules include fines, which start May 1.
If I were Jeremy Hellickson, I would be getting my checkbook ready. Because based on the evidence of yesterday's start, he's going to be making regular payments to MLB's front-office, beginning next month. We knew he was slow coming in - last season, his average pace of 26.4 seconds between pitches was second among all starters, behind only David Price (26.6). But the dry heat of Arizona last night seems to have ground him to a halt entirely. He averaged 27.6 seconds between pitches, almost a full second longer than the second-slowest among the 74 starting pitchers to have taken the mound through Wednesday.
Hellickson's go-slow in his Arizona debut bucks the overall trend, since the edict from head-office does appear to be having some impact, with starters on average taking 21.9 seconds, 0.4 quicker than last season. This hurry-up has been even more pronounced with regard to relievers, who were generally more deliberate to begin with: their time between pitches has shrunk from 24.3 seconds between pitches down to 23.5. That may not sound much, but the overall improvement of half a second (23.0 to 22.5) has saved about two minutes and twenty seconds per game. Mind you, that's still less than you'll probably spend waiting to get through the new metal-detectors...
No-one on the Diamondbacks, starter or reliever, can match the soporific pace of Hellickson. Evan Marshall, at 26.8 seconds, is the closest, with Addison Reed (26.6) not far behind. Josh Collmenter was also more deliberate than average in his Opening Day start: taking 24.7 seconds, which was sharply up on his average last season (21.1). By far the quickest among our three starters was Rubby de la Rosa, at 21.8 seconds, a little below league average, but that's still slower than three Arizona relievers. Least concerned about warning letters is Oliver Perez, at a blazing-fast 19.6 seconds. Put another way, for every five pitches Hellickson throws, Perez gets an extra two in there.