The Cardinals may be in on the Cliff Lee Derby


Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse risks being sued by Scott Boras for using the phrase “mystery team” in referring to a Cliff Lee rumor, but he’ll take that risk to bring you the latest rumor. And the rumor is this: The Cardinals may be the “mystery team” making a play for Cliff Lee. Price suggest that the Cardinals’ 19 year-old pitching prospect Shelby Miller could be the bait.

I have a hard time featuring any play by St. Louis for Lee. For one thing, their biggest problem right now is that they have way too many holes in their lineup. Their problems are not the top of their rotation.  For another thing, given the need to lock up Albert Pujols, the Cardinals aren’t in any position to give Cliff Lee a big contract after the season, which would basically make him a rental.  In that case, Miller is too high a price. But if they go any lower, they’re going to get outbid by the Mets or someone else.

So I guess what I’m not really buying this one. It’s worth posting it, though, if for no other reason than to be able to revisit the old “Mystery Team” meme. We usually only get to see that in December and January. With all the hot weather we’ve been having lately, it’s quite refreshing, actually.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
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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.