Giants, Mota agree to minors contract

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San Francisco’s mediocre middle relief stockpile continues…

The Giants agreed to terms Tuesday on a minor league contract with reliever Guillermo Mota, according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News.  GM Brian Sabean and Co. have now inked three unimpressive relievers to minor league contracts within the past 48 hours.  (See also: Byung-Hyun Kim and Horacio Ramirez).

Mota, 36, posted a respectable 3.44 ERA and 1.18 WHIP last season in 65 1/3 innings of work for the Dodgers.  He has almost always had control problems and has lost some substantial zip on his once high-90s fastball.  But, as Baggarly notes, there is a best-case scenario:

If he makes the club and has a similar year for the Giants, he’d be an
able replacement for Bob Howry, who signed with the Diamondbacks.

Mota’s deal includes an invitation to spring training, where he’s likely to earn a spot in middle relief.

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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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.