Tampa Bay Rays' Longoria reacts in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Wieters in St. Petersburg

MLB’s oblique injury epidemic may be traced to creatine


If we had to identify the three most common themes of the 2011 season thus far, it’d read something like this: rainouts, flu viruses and oblique injuries.

The first can be explained rather easily. Spring is a wet season in almost every part of the baseball-watching world and North America has been pounded by several major storm systems this year.

The second is a little trickier, but influenza is influenza and it tends to spread pretty quickly.

The third? … well … listen to this:

According to Christian Red of the New York Daily News, sports physician Dr. Lewis Maharam has discovered that the upswing in oblique strains across Major League Baseball can probably be traced back to the legal dietary supplement creatine.

Creatine adds water molecules to muscle fibers, which can cause those fibers to separate.

“This makes for easier muscle tears and slows the repair process, leaving them on injured reserve longer,” Maharam says. “It is because of these side effects that professionals for a long time went away from creatine when they could use anabolics and HGH. Now that testing is stronger, I have seen a trend back toward the safer creatine.”

Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Jason Bay, Angel Pagan, J.A. Happ, Ronny Paulino, Fred Lewis, Jon Garland, J.J. Hardy and Erick Aybar have all been plagued by oblique issues in one form or another this season. And they’re far from alone.

Creatine, at least to this point, is not banned by baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL or the NCAA.

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.