Dustin Pedroia delivered the marathon-deciding hit in Sunday night’s exhausting 1-0 victory over the Rays and then came back yesterday with another game-winning hit against the Orioles, continuing an incredible run for the Red Sox second baseman.
Pedroia’s season totals are arguably the best of his career, but his outstanding overall numbers include a modest .239 batting average and .639 OPS through 56 games. Something clicked for Pedroia around early June and since then he’s hit .383 with a 1.177 OPS in 35 games.
During that 35-game stretch he’s produced 54 hits and 28 walks for a .452 on-base percentage, smacked nine homers and 15 doubles in 141 at-bats, and scored or driven in 64 runs. Oh, and the Red Sox have gone 25-10 to take over the AL East lead.
That’s a helluva Laser Show and Pedroia is now a legitimate candidate for his second MVP award, which is pretty remarkable considering the worries surrounding his performance and health through two months.
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.