Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez strikes out eight Mets in major league debut


A week after the Marlins shocked everyone by announcing his callup, 20-year-old Jose Fernandez allowed one run in five innings and struck out eight Mets in his major league debut Sunday.

Fernandez, regarded as one of the game’s top five pitching prospects, was expected to spend the bulk of the season in the minors. In fact, he made just one two-inning appearance for the Marlins this spring before being sent down. The team, though, had a change of heart when both Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi came down with sore shoulder at the end of the spring.

Fernandez allowed three hits and walked one before leaving with a 3-1 lead today. He threw 80 pitches, 53 of them for strikes, and topped out at 97 mph on the gun. He became the 22nd pitcher since 2000 to strike out at least eight batters in his major league debut. Matt Harvey (11) and Collin McHugh (nine) of the Mets were the only two to do it last year.

The Marlins are planning on limiting Fernandez to 150-170 innings this season, so five- and six-inning starts will be the norm for him.

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.