Mark Appel

Astros have No. 1 pick locked up, but race for the bottom is crowded after that


Houston has the worst record in baseball locked up for the second straight season, so the Astros can start deciding what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in next June’s draft.

Right now the Cubs own the second-worst record, but the race for the No. 2 pick is pretty crowded:

              W      L       GB
Astros       40     91     ----
Cubs         50     80     10.5
Twins        53     78     13.0
Rockies      53     76     14.0
Indians      55     76     15.0

Minnesota picked second this season and the Twins trail the Cubs by just 2.5 games for the right to do that again next year. However, the Indians are coming on pretty strong. In fact, since the All-Star break Houston (7-38) and Cleveland (11-35) are the only two teams with fewer than 15 wins or more than 30 losses.

Unfortunately for the Astros and everyone else listed above next year’s draft, much like this year’s draft, is considered a weak class in terms of elite-level talent and most early projections have Stanford right-hander Mark Appel as the top prospect available. Houston passed on Appel with the No. 1 pick in June and he tumbled all the way to Pittsburgh at No. 8 before turning down $3.8 million and going back to school.

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.

Billy Beane promoted to VP, David Forst named A’s general manager

billy beane getty

I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.

The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.

Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”

Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.