Posted by Andy on April 9, 2010
Yesterday Joe West complained about the slow play of the Red Sox and Yankees.
Let's look at the 2009 data to see if we can find any reasons for this.
The 2009 AL "Pitches" batting split tells us a lot.
The table above has a lot of information about the number of pitches seen per team. It's sort at the moment by total number of pitches seen in the season. (Note that with these tables, you can click on any of the headers and re-sort the table.) Notice that the Yankees and the Red Sox saw more pitches than any of the other teams in the AL. Their pitches per plate appearance were both at the high end, but the real reason they saw so many more pitches was because they scored so many runs per game. More runs per game means more batters per game, meaning more plate appearances, meaning more pitches.
The column AS/Pit is the actual swings per pitch. Notice that they are the two lowest teams, meaning they take more pitches than any other team.
The next column, 1stS, is the percentage of times swinging at the first pitch. Swinging at the first pitch can drastically reduce the number of total of pitches seen since it can end a plate appearance in a single pitch. (But of course that single swing could result in a HR or a single, which just brings another guy to the plate, or it could be a swing and miss.) The bottom line is that Boston and New York have the two lowest rates of swinging at the first pitch.
Finally the last column, L/SO, is the fraction of strikeouts that occur looking (as opposed to swinging.) These two teams are the highest, again emphasizing that they like to look at a lot of pitches.
So, when the Yankees and Red Sox each play one of the other AL teams, games are probably extended slightly on average. (And similarly, when the Royals and Mariners play, the games probably go a little quicker on average.) When the play each other, the effect is doubled since both patient teams are involved. Furthermore, when these games are national games, there are often extra commercial spots since TV ratings are so high, making the games even longer.
I don't know if B-R.com has time-of-game data available in any easy way, although each box score has the data shown. I am willing to bet that the game times are similar to what we see for the pitches seen--namely that the 2009 Yankees and Red Sox were both above league average and their games against each other were well above average.