Jeff Francoeur's PR team rests for no one

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All winter and spring, media outlets covering the Braves could be counted on to run 2-3 “this looks like the year Jeff Francoeur puts it all together articles” a week These articles continued even as the season wore on and it because obvious that Francoeur was not putting it all together. Really, it wasn’t until almost the very end of his tenure with the Braves that anyone started writing about just how awful a year the guy was putting together, and even then it was understated.

The good press continues for Jeffy in New York:

His latest performance, two hits in the Mets’ 5-1 victory Sunday,
put his batting average with the Mets at .300 in 100 at-bats. Francoeur
has played in 26 games since being acquired from the Braves for Ryan
Church and has gone hitless in merely seven of them–and never in more
than two straight. He drove in 19 runs in his first 20 games after the
trade. And he has provided the aggressive and strong-armed defense that
Mets had anticipated.

What the article doesn’t mention is that this one-month performance — which is substantially above anything he has accomplished in the past three seasons — still falls short of what one could expect from the average right fielder given his continued lack of plate discipline and meager power.  His last month is nothing more than a modest blip on what is a continued unspectacular radar.

And the kicker: because it’s being portrayed as something special — because Francoeur represents mediocrity in a season of horrors — it’s probably going to cause the Mets to offer this guy a long term deal.

Whatever Francoeur is playing his publicist, he should triple it.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.