Johan joins the Mets' MASH unit due to sore elbow

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It simply had to happen. The Mets had already lost Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and plenty of others. Now perhaps the most valuable player of all has gone down: Johan Santana has been scratched from his start Tuesday because of a sore elbow.
According to manager Jerry Manuel after today’s loss, Santana has been having issues with the elbow since at least the All-Star break. He was no longer throwing on the side in between starts, which probably helped lead to his inconsistency on the mound. He was still 3-2 with a 3.22 ERA in seven second-half starts, so he certainly wasn’t bad. However, he had allowed at least nine hits in four of those outings.
Santana will be examined on Tuesday. Even a somewhat favorable diagnosis that would result in him being shut down for 10-14 days might as well end his season.
The Mets are without any quality alternatives for the rotation because of all of their injuries. Pat Misch, who bailed out Oliver Perez by pitching four innings Sunday, figures to be in the mix, though he won’t be able to start in Santana’s place tomorrow. Journeymen Nelson Figueroa and Elmer Dessens are other options to fill in. The one semi-intriguing youngster in Triple-A is 24-year-old Tobi Stoner, who has gone 5-7 with a 4.46 ERA, 76 H and 50/29 K/BB in 76 2/3 IP since moving up to Buffalo. He projects as more of a middle reliever, but he’d now seem to have a realistic chance of picking up some starts this year.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
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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.