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Could the Angels move to a new downtown L.A. ballpark?


This is fun. And, if you’re the Dodgers or an Angels fan who lives in Orange County, kind of scary: Angels owner Arte Moreno met with the president of AEG, and it at least suggests the possibility that Moreno is investigating moving the Angels to a new ballpark to be built in downtown Los Angeles.

For those who are unaware, AEG owns the Staples Center downtown and is behind the substantial surrounding entertainment/dining/everything development.  Currently they are also the group pushing to build a football stadium down there in order to draw an NFL team.

Bill Shaikin’s report suggests that this could lead to a new ballpark, and notes that Moreno suggested as much as long ago as 2005.  And of course the meeting is notable in and of itself.  The problem, though, is that last year AEG said this when people started talking about the Dodgers moving downtown:

“Under no circumstances are we interested in building a baseball stadium. If you logically just think through playing baseball games in April, May and June when we have Lakers, Clippers and Kings playoff games that are scheduled on a week’s notice. Look at the conflict that would be created during that time. If you logically think through baseball playoff games which are scheduled on a week’s notice and we have Kings, Lakers and Clippers beginning their season, it doesn’t work.”

Obviously people can change their minds about such things, but that was a pretty detailed denial of baseball interest. Why they’d change now is unclear. Maybe because they’d catch less civic hell by luring the Angels up from Anaheim than they would taking the Dodgers out of Chavez Ravine. Maybe because they know something we don’t about the viability of a football stadium downtown and are willing to investigate plan B now.

Or maybe, like any good business, AEG will always take a meeting to listen to things even if it’s not that interested in pursuing the opportunity. Call it the Solozzo principle.  And maybe Moreno is just using the existence of AEG and the possibility of a new stadium to wring some sort of concessions out of the city of Anaheim as the team’s 2016 opt-out window nears.

All worth watching, of course.

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.