Link-O-Rama: Wakefield, Redmond, McClelland, Shelton

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* As expected, Tim Wakefield will undergo back surgery today. Barring any setbacks he should be ready for spring training, but for now the Red Sox are waiting to officially pick up the 43-year-old’s $4 million option for 2010.
* Mike Redmond said yesterday that he plans to play in 2010, but the Twins seem likely to replace him with Jose Morales as Joe Mauer’s backup. Redmond has spent five seasons in Minnesota and is credited as a team leader, but at 38 years old both his hitting and throwing have declined significantly. Whenever he does decide to call it quits, Redmond has a managerial career ahead of him.
* Tampa Bay surprisingly fired hitting coach Steve Henderson after setting a franchise record for runs scored this season and now the Rays have found a replacement in Derek Shelton, who was let go by the Indians along with the rest of Eric Wedge’s staff last month. One team’s trash is another team’s treasure, or something.
* Deadspin has the definitive screen shot of Tim McClelland’s botched call last night, and the picture of Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano standing off the bag with Mike Napoli tagging them should probably be hung (crookedly, of course) in the Bad Umpiring Hall of Fame. I’d write something about how MLB needs to expand replay, but I already did that after all the blown calls last week.

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.