Matt Kemp’s agent, former major league pitcher Dave Stewart, had this to say Wednesday about his ongoing negotiations with the Dodgers’ front office concerning a contract extension for his client (via ESPN L.A.):
“I don’t think that it’s going to be difficult, I really don’t,” Stewart said. “I think we should be able to come to something. I have talked with [general manager Ned Colletti] on a few occasions. We have covered some ground, and hopefully, we will be able to put this thing to bed soon.”
Kemp, who batted .324 with a fantastic .986 OPS, 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases in 161 games this year, is set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2012 season. The Dodgers obviously want to lock him up before he gets a whiff of the open market, but they face a teetering ownership situation and an up-in-the-air budget.
While Stewart’s optimism is refreshing, it’s safe to wonder what exactly Colletti and Co. can actually afford to commit to right now. If Kemp is to be paid the market rate, an extension could surpass $100 million.
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.