I'm not sure how I missed this, but a few days ago, a user over at Beyond The Box Score ran a study to identify the fastest- and slowest-working pitchers in baseball. Turns out PITCHfx data comes with a time stamp, which I'd never known. And it's by looking at this time stamp that one can identify which guys work quickly, and which guys play for the.
Here's the study, which looks at the 20 fastest and slowest workers among 295 qualified pitchers. A qualified pitcher threw at least 500 pitches in 2010 that weren't (A) thrown with runners on, (B) the first pitch of an at bat, (C) pitches following on-field delays, or (D) pitches with an obviously glitchy time stamp. The whole none on/men on issue may be significant, as some guys might work exceptionally slowly out of the stretch, but this is the only way to make sure pick-off throws don't skew the numbers.
Results? The fastest worker - to no one's surprise - is Chicago's Mark Buehrle, who averaged 16.0 seconds between pitches. The slowest worker was Rafael Betancourt, at 31.3 seconds between pitches. The slowest-working starter was Matt Garza, at 25.7. The fastest-working reliever was Sean Gallagher, at 17.1.
Interestingly, if you look at the 20 slowest, you don't find any Doug Fister's at 17.5 seconds. Luke French is at 16.2 seconds. And David Pauley is right there, tied with Buehrle at 16.0 seconds. On average, the Mariners had the third-fastest pitching staff in baseball last season. (You'll never guess who finished last!). If you look at the 20 fastest, you find three.
I don't think this is a super meaningful statistic. The obvious follow-up is "are faster pitchers better? Are they worse?" and there's no clear evidence that one's pace makes a difference. So one might consider this something of an analytical dead end. However, I think there are two types of statistics with incomplete overlap. There are the numbers that mean something in terms of predicting future performance. And there are the numbers that mean something in terms of entertainment or watchability. I don't think David Pauley or Luke French really gain anything from working quickly, but their tempo sure makes them more watchable, and that's significant to us as fans. These are guys we've had to and may again have to watch, and it's better that they work quickly rather than slowly.
Everything about Jonathan Papelbon makes him a turd.