MLB rules require a pitcher, with no one on, to deliver the ball within 12 seconds of receiving it. Buchholz is taking 18-22 seconds.
— Adam J. Morris (@lonestarball) October 20, 2013
Of course, I should cut him some slack, as Morris is far from the first person to make this mistake when citing rule 8.04:
8.04 When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”
So, if Buchholz was taking 6-10 seconds longer than this, that's a pretty clear rule violation, right?
Well, not necessarily. Rule 8.04 continues:
The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
That "alert to the pitcher" part is pretty important. It typically takes longer than 6-10 seconds for the pitcher to get back on the rubber and for the batter to get set in the box and focus his eyes on the pitcher. That's when the timing starts, not the instant the pitcher receives the ball back from the catcher or umpire.
In fact, I timed a dozen or so of Buchholz's pitches after the hullabaloo started and he consistently delivered to the plate within 7-10 seconds.
Furthermore, since the batter will typically step out and ask for time if the pitcher takes as many as, say, eight seconds to start his delivery, this rule is pretty much a moot point. That is, it's unenforced because it's virtually unenforceable.
Hey, I find Buchholz's pace as painstakingly lethargic as the next guy, and–after watching another four-hour Red Sox game–I understand the desire to speed things up, but rule 8.04–as it is currently written–is not the means to this end.