Some interesting work has recently been done at Beyond the Box Score and Fangraphs on the pace at which pitchers work. Pitch f/x, which is a system of cameras installed in all major league ballparks to collect a plethora of data about pitches, includes a timestamp when it takes the data of every pitch thrown in baseball. Using that timestamp, both aforementioned sites calculated the average pace for pitchers.
There are some discrepancies between the numbers on the two sites, but the "pace" statistic from Fangraphs will be used for this post. The fastest and slowest starting pitchers are listed below. Relief pitchers weren’t included for these particular lists, but they generally operate much more slowly than starters. The average pace for a pitcher is 21.5 seconds.
Let’s have a look at the data on Mets pitchers:
Based upon the numbers from this season, there appears to be no correlation between pace and performance. Some great pitchers work very slowly, and some awful pitchers work very quickly. For that reason, pace should be considered a characteristic about a pitcher rather than a statistic. Looking at a pitcher’s pace is much like looking at the velocity of his pitches. It is a number that describes something about the pitcher but has no value in predicting a pitcher’s performance.
Despite a lack of statistical value, pace could still be an interesting topic to explore. Data has just been made available to the masses on the internet. While Francisco Rodriguez’s snail pace on the mound is probably not a surprise to Mets fans, some might have assumed that Johan Santana worked more quickly than Mike Pelfrey or Jon Niese. Pace is now something that fans can look up online to see whether or not what they perceive corresponds with data on the topic.
Further exploration and research of pace is definitely necessary to see whether or not there’s any more value to the figure than there appears to be right now. While comparing the pace of one pitcher to another doesn’t mean anything, perhaps there would be some value in analyzing an individual pitcher’s pace and performance to see if speeding up or slowing down his game makes a difference in the results he produces.