Jonathan Papelbon will be the Phillies’s closer for the next four years. Concerns about the size and length of the contract aside, Papelbon’s arrival brings a larger cost to the City of Philadelphia.
Jonathan Papelbon takes 45 minutes between each pitch.
So that’s an exaggeration, but it is a peer-reviewed non-exaggeration to say that he takes an infuriatingly long time between pitches.
So I did some math to answer this question: How much of our time will Papelbon waste over the next 4 years? I addressed this question by using the Fangraphs’s ‘pace’ statistic which tracks time per pitch.
- As a point of comparison, fast-pitching Cliff Lee took 20.4 seconds between pitches in 2011.
- Ryan Madson, our previous closer, took 23.0 seconds between pitches last season.*
- Jonathan Papelbon took 1,714.3 seconds between pitches in 2011. No, ok, he took 31.9 seconds.
*The Rules of Baseball (cue angelic choir) give a pitcher 12 seconds to pitch after receiving the ball from the catcher. If every pitcher used 12 seconds, that would mean that Carlos Ruiz takes 11 seconds to get the ball back to Madson, and 8 seconds to get the ball back to Cliff Lee. Obviously, umpires are not enforcing this rule.
The Phillies signed Papelbon to be what Madson was last year – a very good closer. And they’re paying him based on his past 4 years’ performance. So let’s assume, because to do so is pleasing, that Papelbon maintains his previous 4-year averages for the next 4, and that Madson would have done the same job. Our math is as follows:
Multiply that 9,799.79 seconds by 4 years and convert into hours, and you have 10.89 hours. This is the amount of extra time that Papelbon will take to do an equally good job of closing as Ryan Madson would have done.
Doesn’t seem like much. But hundreds of thousands of people are going to watch Phillies games on TV. This is 10.89 hours stolen from everybody’s individual lives. To simplify things, let’s consider just Phillies home games, and assume, because we’re on a roll, that half of Papelbon’s pitching time will occur at home.
236,015.99 hours. This is the collective extra time that Philadelphians (and those irritatingly polite Braves fans who come to games) will spend watching our closer pitch, because it’s Papelbon and not Madson.
Like a villain from a Green Lantern comic, Jonathan Papelbon will suck 236,000 hours out of the City of Philadelphia over the next 4 years. That is time that could be spent starting small businesses, or shopping local, or hugging children. Time we will never get back.
Malcolm Gladwell says that somebody else says that it takes 10,000 hours of working hard at something to become excellent at it. That is 23.6 experts we could have in Philadelphia*, experts we could really put to good use.
*Assuming we could somehow donate our collective time to one person, who would use it to work on one specific skill,** but hey, I wrote this in Philadelphia and you’re reading it instantaneously in a cafe in Paris, and if we could invent that magic why not this other idea?
**Hell, let’s donate that time to a kid with a good arm and get ourselves a closer that doesn’t take forever.
But no. Instead, we will all spend 10.89 hours watching a boogly-eyed crazy person stare furiously at the dirt in front of the pitcher’s mound, take breaths like he’s trying to pass a kidney stone, and then throw only fastballs.