Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz

Adrian Gonzalez willing to play outfield to make room for David Ortiz


Expectations were that either the AL’s third-best or fourth-best hitter would have to be held out of the lineup when the Red Sox start a nine-game road trip in National League parks on Friday.  There is an alternative, though.

Adrian Gonzalez said he’s willing to move to right field to make room for David Ortiz in the lineup with the DH unavailable starting Friday.  It something the Red Sox are considering trying, though probably for just a couple of games, not for the entire slate.

Gonzalez has started all 71 of Boston’s games at first base.  He’s only played right field once in his career, that coming back in 2005 with Texas.  The Rangers weighed moving him out there on a more regular basis since they had Mark Teixeira installed at first, but even back then, they realized he was too slow to make it as an outfielder.

And Gonzalez is certainly no faster now.  While he’s certainly less round than Ortiz, he’d probably lose a footrace to Boston’s DH.  Putting him in right field, while also taking a defensive downgrade at first base, would seem to be more trouble than it’s worth.  There’s also the risk of injury for both Gonzalez and Ortiz.

On the other hand, while the Red Sox may be worse off on any given day with Gonzalez in right, they don’t want to see Ortiz lose his timing at the plate either.  He’s currently hitting .320/.399/.602 this season.  His 1.000 OPS puts him behind only Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera and Gonzalez in the American League.

So it’s no easy call.  The Red Sox may wait and see how Gonzalez handled shagging some balls in the outfield before deciding whether to try it.

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.