Lou Piniella going off on Steve Stone last week was obviously a long time in the making, but it was pushed to the surfaced because of comments Stone made recently criticizing Piniella for not playing rookie Tyler Colvin enough.
Piniella blasted Stone for having the gall to criticize him, basically said he has no idea what he’s talking about … and is now doing exactly what Stone suggested. Seriously. Piniella said yesterday that Colvin will begin to get more playing time:
We said when the time was right we were going to make this type of move, and the time’s getting real right. He deserves an opportunity. We brought him along and he waited his turn and he deserves an opportunity.
So, maybe Piniella was just upset at Stone for stealing his thunder?
Colvin started in right field and batted second last night, replacing fellow left-handed hitter Kosuke Fukudome against right-hander Gavin Floyd. Colvin has forced his way into the lineup by hitting .296 with six homers and eight doubles in 98 at-bats as a part-time player, posting a team-leading .936 OPS, and the fact that Fukudome is also in his annual post-April slump makes things a lot easier on Piniella.
As for Stone … well, he didn’t seem to be bothered one bit by Piniella taking shots at him, seemingly taking it as well as he dished it out, and is probably pretty amused by how quickly the Cubs’ manager followed his advice. Or maybe the whole feud was all just a ruse to get the focus away from the team’s 28-35 record.
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.