I’ve been getting annoyed at all of the “no team who has ever started 0 and whatever has ever made the playoffs” stuff, but I suppose at some point those numbers are going to become relevant. And we’re a day closer to that, because Boston lost again this afternoon, and they did it in frustrating fashion. At least at the end.
There were two outs in the ninth, with the Sox down 1-0. David Ortiz walked, and Darnell McDonald pinch-ran for him. J.D. Drew hit a grounder up the middle that ricocheted off Chris Perez’s foot and bounced to the third baseman Adam Everett. McDonald would have been safe at second by a mile had he stopped, but he overran the bag, slipped, and then couldn’t get up as he tried to crawl back. Everett threw to second baseman Orlando Cabrera who tagged McDonald out to end the game. MLB.com doesn’t have the highlight up yet, but here’s a handy animated gif of the play. The fact that it repeats over and over will make Red Sox fans enjoy it all the more.
Before all of that we had a pitchers’ duel and some small-ball supreme. Jon Lester and Fausto Carmona were both on point, each shutting out the other side over seven innings on a cold windy day, Lester doing so with nine Ks. In the bottom of the eighth the Indians manufactured a run with a walk, a steal, a sacrifice and then a squeeze play, with Adam Everett doing the walking, stealing and running and Asdrubal Cabrera laying down the squeeze bunt. And he may have had his foot out of the batter’s box when he bunted and should have been out, but that’s fairly academic now.
The Sox have a quiet plane ride back to Boston this afternoon and then a series against the Yankees that — dare I say it on April 7th? — is a must-win.
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.