Adam LaRoche Getty

The Red Sox are talking to Adam LaRoche


Many assumed Adam LaRoche would be back with the Nationals before Christmas, but as their talks have reached stalemate, someone else has stepped in. Here’s Rosenthal, talking about a new development: The Red Sox are interested:

[The Red Sox] are talking to free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to major league sources. The discussions, first reported by Boston-based reporter Jen Royle, involve two- and three-year possibilities, sources say. LaRoche, 33, wants a three-year deal, and that has been the main obstacle in his talks with his former club, the Washington Nationals.

More notable than what this means for LaRoche is what in the heck this means for Mike Napoli. Who, while technically still unsigned by Boston, is supposed to have a deal in place here.

The holdup thus far is reportedly due to Napoli’s hip and the Red Sox’ desire to rework the $39 million contract the sides tentatively agreed to. The LaRoche development could mean that conversations between Napoli and the Sox to rework their deal are breaking down. Or it could just be the Sox pressuring Napoli. Either way, it’s worth watching both for what it means for Napoli and LaRoche.


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.