Matt Bush Padres

Rays add former No. 1 pick Matt Bush to 40-man roster

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Interesting move by the Rays this afternoon, as they have added former 2004 No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush to their 40-man roster, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Bush, who turns 25 in February, otherwise would have had the right to become a free agent.

Bush, of course, is known as one of the biggest busts in draft history. He was involved in a bar fight before even making his pro debut and batted just .219/.294/.276 over four seasons before trying his luck as a pitcher in 2007. He was picked up by the Blue Jays in February of 2009 after missing the entire 2008 season following Tommy John surgery, but was cut loose after allegedly assaulting some lacrosse players at his old high school. In addition to his extensive legal troubles, he has the unfortunate distinction of joining Brien Taylor and Steve Chilcott as the only former No. 1 picks never to play in the major leagues.

The Rays took a chance by signing Bush to a minor league contract in January. He posted a 3.29 ERA and 20/3 K/BB ratio over 13 2/3 innings between rookie ball and High-A Charlotte this past season, which was apparently impressive enough for him to return for another season. If he manages to end up as a pitcher in the major leagues, great, but turning his life around should still be the No. 1 priority.

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.