There aren’t many reasons to miss the way the White Sox used to be, because they could stand to improve upon just about everything they’ve ever done.
But Statcast’s new pitch tempo leaderboard made me feel a little bit nostalgic for the days when:
- White Sox pitchers stayed healthy.
- White Sox pitchers worked fast as hell.
The metric goes al lthe way back to 2010, and the White Sox dominate the leaderboard, with Buehrle, Clayton Richard and John Danks finishing 1-2-3. Richard was a member of the Padres by then, sent to San Diego in the Jake Peavy deal, but his lightning-fast pace was a trademark of his days coming up the White Sox system, and his brief time on the 25-man roster.
Over subsequent years, Chris Sale cracked the top 10, but aside from the brief, glorious run of Andre Rienzo, the White Sox have had precious few pitchers remember that the optimal game state involves them in the dugout, not on the field.
(The Rienzo post reminds me of a stupid video I very much enjoyed making.)
Smash-cut to 2022, and the first White Sox pitcher doesn’t make an appearance on the league-wide list until Tanner Banks, whose pace of 17.4 seconds between pitches with the bases empty is good for a tie for 141st, followed by Johnny Cueto in the group 11 spots behind at 17.5 seconds.
The fastest White Sox pitchers work slower than all but two members of the White Sox pitching staff 10 years ago, when Jesse Crain (18.5 seconds) and Addison Reed (18.9) put together the longest innings. In 2022, Dylan Cease is the only other active pitcher who gets rid of the ball in less than 20 seconds, with Matt Foster bringing up the rear at 24.9 seconds in between pitches with the bases empty.
Here’s how it looks:
|John Danks (12.8)||Reynaldo López (15.1)||Tanner Banks (17.4)|
|Chris Sale (13.1)||Carlos Rodón (15.1)||Johnny Cueto (17.5)|
|Hector Santiago (13.4)||Dylan Covey (15.8)||Dylan Cease (19.5)|
|Dylan Axelrod (13.6)||Derek Holland (16.3)||Kendall Graveman (20.5)|
|Francisco Liriano (14.0)||David Holmberg (16.8)||Vince Velasquez (20.7)|
|Philip Humber (14.3)||José Quintana (17.1)||Michael Kopech (21)|
|Matt Thornton (14.8)||Miguel González (17.9)||Liam Hendriks (21.3)|
|José Quintana (15.4)||James Shields (18.2)||Reynaldo López (21.7)|
|Jake Peavy (15.4)||Mike Pelfrey (18.2)||Bennett Sousa (21.9)|
|Gavin Floyd (16)||Juan Minaya (18.3)||Aaron Bummer (22.3)|
|Nate Jones (16.3)||Gregory Infante (19.5)||Lucas Giolito (23.0)|
|Jesse Crain (18.5)||Anthony Swarzak (21.4)||Matt Foster (24.9)|
|Addison Reed (18.9)||Dan Jennings (21.9)|
|Chris Beck (22.4)|
I was surprised to see Velasquez in the middle of the pack, but if you’re thinking he goes about his business like a sloth on quaaludes, his pace is nearly six seconds slower with a baserunner aboard. There’s a separate leaderboard for pace with traffic, but the dramatic delay when no other variables distills the issue well enough. Look no further than López, who loses six seconds of pace over the course of five years before holding baserunners is even a concern.
This is why the pitch clock of 14 seconds with the bases empty (and 18 seconds with runners on) is as radical a notion as it is historical. It wasn’t all that long ago that 14 seconds was an unremarkable amount of time, because I don’t recall anybody marveling about how swiftly Francisco Liriano went about his business. Yet because standards for expediency have fallen so far, it’s hard to watch a minor-league game in 2022 without getting winded.
I used to be against pitch clocks for all the typical aesthetic and romantic reasons, but also because the White Sox didn’t require one. But now that nobody followed their lead — not even the White Sox themselves — there’s no telling how slow the game could devolve without one. Should Major League Baseball implement one, it’s going to drastically change the way pitchers do business, but at least Minor League Baseball appears to be providing a working proof of concept when it’s up for discussion after the season.
Statcast also tracks hitters, but there’s a much narrower spread, with fewer than three seconds separating Josh Harrison (16.4) at the top and José Abreu (19.2) at the bottom. The tool was more useful to confirm my suspicion about Conor Gillaspie somehow moving slower than anybody during his time with the Sox, even though he didn’t have batting gloves to adjust.