Paul Hoynes of the Plain-Dealer has a story I’ve never heard before: the Indians drafted Tim Lincecum in the 42nd round of the 2005 draft. Ok, I knew that part. He demanded $1 million to sign, which is really high. The Indians offered $700,000, he said no, and went back to college and the rest is history. I knew that part too. The part I didn’t know: Major League Baseball got all kinds of mad at the Indians for even offering the $700,000 because that was above the slot recommendation for the 42nd round.
Lincecum was a well thought-of prospect, but he was coming off a bad sophomore year. The Indians, and a lot of other teams, realized that he’d be pretty good, but were trying to make a value play: get the guy when he’s at his lowest, maybe even when he’s worrying if he had the stuff to make it. Maybe he jumps at the $700K! It’s definitely worth a shot, and if it had worked, baseball as a whole would have saved a over a million bucks on what they ended up paying Lincecum when he eventually did sign ($2.025 million with the Giants a year later). Heck, even if they had met Lincecum’s demand they would have saved over a million.
But rather than applaud the effort to buy low, baseball got all pissy at Cleveland in an effort to maintain their misguided and counterproductive slotting system. Just foolish.
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:
+10 Blue Jays
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:
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.
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.