The One Bad Thing About Mike Adams

By Peter Ellwood

In 2011, the Texas Rangers acquired Mike Adams from the San Diego Padres for two minor-league pitchers (Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland). This was quite the acquisition for the Rangers, because Mike Adams was the best relief pitcher in baseball during 2010 and 2011, posting a 1.60 ERA in 140.1 innings pitched, with 9.43 K/9 against 2.37 BB/9. He is as effective against left-handed hitters (career wOBA of.253) as he is against righties (wOBA of .260), making him a major asset to any bullpen. He has served as the set-up man for both the Padres and the Rangers, anchoring the 8th inning to bridge the game to Heath Bell, Neftali Feliz, and now this year, Joe Nathan.

Adams is a really good pitcher who is nearly without flaws in his performance. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a flaw in his performance. However, there is one thing that Mike Adams does when he is pitching that removes all enjoyment of watching him pitch, for me. He works excruciatingly slow.

In 2012, no Rangers pitcher works slower than Adams. Adams’ pace (the time between pitches) is 28.9 seconds. The next slowest working Rangers pitcher is Mark Lowe, whose pace is 25.4 seconds, a full 3.5 seconds faster than Adams. In all of baseball, in 2012, Adams has the sixth-slowest pace. Since 2007, no other Rangers pitcher has even cracked the 27-second barrier.

I don’t have the pace data for individual games, but if I had to guess, Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians had to be one of Adams’ slowest of the year, even by his standards. Adams faced five batters in the inning. He threw 26 pitches in total, working to a full count on three of the hitters. He walked two of the five batters he faced, throwing 14 balls in those 26 pitches. The entire outing was a laborious struggle between Mike Adams and the baseball. Even assuming that Adams worked at his usual pace (and it seemed slower), those 26 pitches would have taken 12 minutes, at a minimum. Of course, one of the reasons Adams may have seemed even slower in this game was that it was started by Matt Harrison, the Rangers’ quickest worker at 17.7 seconds between pitches. Harrison can almost throw two pitches in the time it takes Adams to deliver one.

I’m not sure what causes Adams to work so slow. It seems as though he is taking off his cap and wiping his forehead on the back of the mound after every pitch. His delivery includes an exaggerated fall to the first-base side of the diamond, which creates extra steps between pitches. One of the principles of Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux is working quickly, which Adams certainly doesn’t adhere to. In fact, he is working slower in 2012 than he did in 2011, by more than two seconds. Maddux emphasizes working quickly so that the pitcher maintains control of the pitcher-hitter battle, and doesn’t present any appearance of a lack of confidence. The extra breaths, head rubs, spike-cleaning, cap tilts, and rosin bag tosses don’t exactly exude that kind of confidence.

Mike Adams is going to be a free agent after the 2012 season. He has been so good the past three years that he is well positioned to be a closer on some team in 2013. The Rangers would certainly like to keep his kind of production in the bullpen, but they may not have the budget to do so if another team is going to pay him to close. The pace at which Adams works has certainly not affected his performance so far, and I don’t suspect it will in the future. He will likely go on to be a good closer next year, and he may find a new group of fans to tantalize with his deliberation between pitches.

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