San Francisco Giants' manager Bochy, New York Yankees' Granderson and Cano attend a news conference in Taipei

MLB “stars” sweep five-game series against Chinese Taipei


We did it! … Or something.

According to Doug Miller of, a group of Major League Baseball players (some stars, others not) captured a 6-4 victory Sunday at Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, finishing up a five-game sweep of a Chinese Taipei team led by Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang.

Yankees Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano were the main attraction, and were even invited to pose in the Chinese Taipei team picture taken right after the conclusion of the five-game set.

Three of the five contests were decided by fewer than three runs and MLB team manager Bruce Bochy noticed daily improvement from the opposition.

“It could have gone either way,” said Bochy. “Sure, we won five games, but you could see their confidence growing and they were playing right there with us. It’s good for baseball and for Taiwan. A lot of these are young players playing against the best players in the world, and they were fighting hard. It was a great experience for all of us. We’ve had a great time.” produced some excellent videos throughout the visit, including this one of a player-run clinic.

The roster for the Taiwan series, excluding Cano and Granderson, consisted of Pablo Sandoval (Giants), Logan Morrison (Marlins), Drew Butera (Twins), Jeff Mathis (Angels), Erick Aybar (Angels), Michael Morse (Nationals), Ryan Roberts (Diamondbacks), Danny Valencia (Twins), Emilio Bonifacio (Marlins), Bill Bray (Reds), Ross Detwiler (Nationals), Dillon Gee (Mets), Collin Balester (Nationals), Jeremy Guthrie (Orioles), Mark Melancon (Astros) and Jose Veras (Pirates).

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
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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.