BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16, 2011: Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox reacts against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park April 16, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Red Sox starter Josh Beckett has drawn some criticism for the amount of time he takes in between pitches. So it's worth investigating: what, exactly, does Josh Beckett do in between pitches?
The old meme is back, as people are again complaining about how long Red Sox/Yankees games take. Tuesday's 5-2 Yankees win clocked in at three hours and 59 minutes, and even Mark Teixeira is saying these things are torture. Quote:
"It’s brutal," said Teixeira, the Yankees’ first baseman. "I can’t stand playing a nine-inning game in four hours. It’s not baseball."
Several articles have been written on the subject over the last few days, and many of them have made a point of mentioning Josh Beckett's start against the Yankees on August 7. From the article linked above:
After a painfully slow ESPN game on Aug. 7, Torre called Francona and asked him to talk to Beckett about his pace. Beckett averaged more than 31 seconds per pitch that night, although the rule book says a pitcher can take only 12.
From another article, by Mike Petraglia:
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he isn't about to tell Wednesday's starting pitcher Josh Beckett to do something that will make him feel uncomfortable. Beckett was criticized by former Mets manager Bobby Valentine on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball during his start on Aug. 7 for taking as much as 45 seconds between pitches to deliver the baseball.
Beckett, clearly, is one of the guys at the heart of the matter. Josh Beckett isn't the only reason Red Sox/Yankees games take forever, but he's among them, as he works with what we might charitably call a deliberate pace. Baseball is already a slow game, and Red Sox/Yankees games are slower, so it should tell you something that Beckett drew attention for being even slower still.
A deliberate pace is nothing new for Beckett - he's been measured as one of the slowest pitchers in baseball. What makes it worse against the Yankees is that the Yankees take a lot of pitches and put a lot of runners on base, further drawing things out. Facing the Yankees makes a slow pitcher even slower.
Reading all these articles, I became curious. Okay, so Josh Beckett takes forever. He especially took forever on August 7. But just what is he doing with his time? Why is it that he takes so long between pitches? To find my answer, I went back to the August 7 video. I selected the timing at random, and what follows is a breakdown of what Beckett did after a 1-and-1 pitch to Teixeira in the top of the fourth, with a runner on first.
The whole sequence took 43 seconds. Beckett threw a pitch, and 43 seconds later, he threw another pitch. He did not attempt a pickoff in between.
Here, Beckett just kind of wanders around, because he's waiting to get the baseball back. Pitchers can't just throw a ball and then immediately throw another ball - the ball has to be returned by the catcher, or the umpire. In this case, Beckett receives a new ball from the umpire, because his previous pitch was in the dirt. Good job, Josh. That'll make the game go faster.
Here, we have no idea what Beckett's doing, since the camera is focused on Teixeira. Given that Teixeira steps out of the box and just kind of casually swings away, though, we can assume that Beckett isn't doing anything interesting. He's probably standing on the back of the mound, back to the plate, rubbing the new baseball. After doing a lot of research I've concluded that 30 percent of pitching is rubbing baseballs.
No, wait, Beckett hasn't rubbed the new baseball yet. Here, he kicks dirt. Kicking dirt is another 30 percent of pitching. Groundskeepers have to come out between innings and repair the mound because if pitchers had their way, the mound would be destroyed, dirt scattered around the infield in a haphazard ring. They're digging to China!
China isn't that great, but pitchers are curious.
Here, again, the camera is focused on someone other than Beckett. The camera isn't focused on Beckett the whole time because pitchers between pitches are the most boring people on the planet. The baserunner is Curtis Granderson, and the fact that he remains by first base says that Beckett isn't yet standing on the rubber. By this point he's almost certainly standing with his back to the plate, rubbing the new baseball. Finally.
Not Beckett, again. But now Teixeira's back in the box, meaning Beckett's back on the rubber. Roughly 18 seconds after throwing the previous pitch, Josh Beckett is ready to think about throwing his next pitch.
Here, Beckett looks in for a sign. Granderson's ready. Teixeira's ready. All Beckett needs to do is agree to a pitch and then begin to throw it.
Still looking. Gotta be sure about this pitch. Do you know how quickly catchers flash signs? Do you know how uncomplicated it is as long as there isn't a runner on second? By this point Jason Varitek has probably gone through every possibility at least three or four times. Beckett makes a decision about halfway through and raises his glove, but then he has to use his peripheral vision to check on Granderson, who isn't doing anything. Teixeira's wrists are getting tired from waving the bat around all willy-nilly.
At last, we have liftoff. Beckett begins to throw, and his slide-step delivery is a quick one. Teixeira swings and hits a foul ball. The sequence begins anew.
So that's what Josh Beckett does with his time between pitches. I hope that you have found this exercise informative.