The Feds are probably going to appeal the steroid list ruling

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The federal prosecutors who just got their butts handed to them in the BALCO steroid test seizure case have asked the appeals court to stay the ruling.  For those of you who were smart enough to stay the hell away from law school, that means that they want the court to order that no one, including baseball, the lawyers, the lower courts, etc., destroy the steroid test list.  They’ve asked for this because, presumably, they plan to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.  Or they just want to buy time.  Either way, it’s a fairly routine move.

Two questions, though:

1.  The feds, generally speaking, don’t like it when courts tell them that they can’t seize anything they want to seize. As it stands now, only one part of the country — the part that lives in the 9th Circuit — is subject to the more restrictive law that came down last week. Do the feds really want to risk having that decision affirmed by the Supreme Court and have it apply to the whole country?

2. How funny would it be if people ignored a stay order issued by the court and started destroying the lists? After the sealing order has been ignored and the names of A-Rod, Ortiz, Sosa and Manny leaked, how could the feds possibly be heard to complain?

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled baseball blogging.

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.