Ryan Dempster

Theo Epstein and Ryan Dempster stir up trade speculation with public chat


There was an odd scene at Wrigley Field yesterday as Cubs president Theo Epstein and right-hander Ryan Dempster had a one-on-one chat while sitting in the stands during batting practice.

Dempster was in uniform and by choosing to have their conversation in public with multiple reporters looking on they had to know that it would create tons of speculation about the Cubs trading the 35-year-old impending free agent.

Dempster revealed only that they “discussed a lot of things and obviously there are a lot of things being talked about … we talked about being on the same page and trying to do what is best for our team.”

However, according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago the conversation was indeed about potential trades. And because Dempster has the right to block any move as a 10-and-5 player presumably Epstein was laying out various scenarios to gauge his willingness to pitch for other teams.

Terrible run support has kept Dempster from an impressive win-loss record, but he’s started 11 games with a 2.31 ERA and 63/20 K/BB ratio in 74 innings. While perhaps not quite a No. 1 starter Dempster has had a sub-4.00 ERA in four of the past five seasons and would no doubt generate plenty of interest from contenders leading up to July 31.

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.