Andrew Benintendi had the most excruciating plate appearance of last night’s World Series Game 2. It wasn’t because he was over-matched against Ryu Hyun-jin’s pitching; there were no Stanton-esque hacks at diving curveballs. Nor was there the nervous tension of accumulating foul balls, piling on the pressure for batter, pitcher and fan alike.
No, the at bat merely took an absolute age.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts singled up the middle. This brought up Boston’s No. 2 hitter, Benintendi, with runners on first and second. The Los Angeles Dodgers were holding on to a one run lead, meaning Benintendi’s plate appearance was to that point the highest leveraged moment of the evening for a Red Sox hitter. By the end of the night only three plate appearances would have a higher leverage, all coming with the bases loaded (two of which were set up by Benintendi’s eventual walk in this plate appearance).
A tense moment then. Let’s see how it played out.
NB: A timestamp of 1:59:00 means an hour and fifty-nine minutes into FOX’s broadcast of the game. Pitches are in bold; egregious faffing around is in italics.
1:58:45 – Ryu pitches to Betts.
1:58:56 – Betts, having singled, stands on first base, removes various apparatus from his person, and has a nice chat with first base coach Tom Goodwin.
With no play on a runner, no challenges being made, and no pitching changes in sight, the next pitch is presumably right around the corner.
1:59:12 – Ah. The Dodgers infield has a meeting on the mound. Ryu, catcher Austin Barnes and middle infielders Enrique Hernandez and Manny Machado are present. The television feed cuts to Ryan Madson throwing in bullpen, before switching to a commercial for batteries. It’s the last time we’ll see an effective battery this inning.
1:59:38 – Benintendi ambles around the on deck circle, rubbing pine tar on his bat. We see a graphic comparing the starts of Ryu and Boston pitcher David Price.
2:00:09 – Machado, still on the mound, kicks dirt around with a presumed purpose.
2:00:16 – Not to be outdone, Benintendi steps towards the batters box and also engages in a spot of dirt kicking.
2:00:20 – Benintendi steps out of the batters box and fiddles with his sleeves. The home plate umpire comes into view, face mask not yet on face.
2:00:32 – Ryu is on the rubber and finally everyone is in the right position for playing a game of baseball.
2:00:36 – Ryu steps off the rubber.
2:00:43 – Benintendi having stepped out, steps back in.
At this point it has been two minutes since we have seen a pitch. The only action has been an uncomplicated single to center field and a spot of landscape gardening.
2:00:49 – Ryu bounces the first pitch to Benintendi. Chekov’s dirt is kind to the Dodgers, and Barnes scrambles successfully to keep the runners in place.
2:01:26 – Ryu pitches. It’s ball two.
2:01:59 – Benintendi fouls off Ryu’s third offering. FOX delights fans of #narrative everywhere by showing the Red Sox postseason batting average with two outs.
Three pitches in a minute. Rob Manfred starts drafting a letter of congratulations to all involved.
2:02:26 – Benintendi is in the box (good), but steps out as Barnes calls time (bad). Ryu can be seen muttering under his breath in an indeterminate language.
2:02:37 – The runners are shown getting ready to take their leads, but relax in a telltale sign that someone, somewhere has called time. Benintendi fiddles with his gloves, eyes.
2:02:47 – Benintendi steps back in.
It’s been almost a minute since the last pitch. Rob Manfred drafts a letter formally renouncing the previous dispatch.
2:02:55 – Ryu delivers, and it’s a called strike two.
2:03:23 – Benintendi waits, but time is called and he steps out. Barnes jogs out to the mound to discuss dinner plans with Ryu. A Youtube TV commercial plays, with the thrills of the mound meeting relegated to the corner of the screen.
2:03:54 – Benintendi steps into the box. The Youtube TV ad is still playing.
2:03:56 – Benintendi calls time. The Youtube TV ad is still playing. Benintendi mutters under his breath.
It’s been more than a minute since the last pitch.
2:04:11 – Ryu delivers ball three. Benintendi goes for a wander, fiddles with gloves, eyes, hat.
2:04:38 – The full count pitch is on it’s way and Boston’s left fielder fouls it off, before stepping out the box.
2:05:09 – Ryu is on the rubber.
2:05:10 – Ryu steps off the rubber.
2:05:26 – Ryu shakes off Barnes once. Ryu shakes off Barnes twice. Ryu shakes off Barnes thrice.
2:05:33 – Benintendi, concerned about developing hypothermia, steps out for a little exercise.
2:05:38 – With Benintendi having long since left the picture, Ryu and Barnes finally agree on a pitch.
2:05:44 – Benintendi is back in the box.
It’s been more than a minute since the last pitch.
2:05:53 – Ryu delivers. Benintendi fouls off his offering, fiddles with gloves, hat, dirt, gloves.
2:06:16 – Barnes runs out to mound. Hernandez joins them. Replays show Dave Roberts, who has already eaten dinner, giving the go-ahead for the mound visit.
2:06:48 – Ryu pitches. Ball four.
2:07:09 – Roberts makes the call to the bullpen.
2:09:51 – Ryan Madson throws his first pitch.
Benintendi’s plate appearance, and the time either side of it, amounted to an eleven minute period in which eight pitches were thrown and none were put in play. There were six minutes between the first and eighth pitch of the PA, an average of 45 seconds per pitch.
High leverage situations call for a slowing of the pace, naturally. But it is not always necessarily thus. Per Dan Hirsch’s Baseball Gauge website, the play with the highest Championship Leverage in baseball history was an Eddie Murray bases-loaded at bat in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series. Murray flew out on the fifth pitch, two and a half minutes into the plate appearance.
The play with the second highest Championship Leverage in baseball history was Tony Womack vs Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of 2001’s World Series Game 7. Womack doubled in the tying run on the fifth pitch, less than 80 seconds after Rivera’s initial offering.
Even Rajai Davis’ game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series was not overly drawn out. Davis’ homer came on the seventh pitch of the at bat, just over two and a half minutes after the first pitch from Chapman. With all the recent talk of sign stealing paranoia, it’s worth noting that all of the above at bats came with runners on second base.
I have no grand conclusions to make here, aside from noting that that was a pretty unbearable ten minutes in an otherwise entertaining game of baseball. Just pick up the pace a little bit, eh fellas.