Desmond Jennings Brandon Crawford

Rays lose Desmond Jennings to fractured finger


X-rays originally came back negative after Rays leadoff man Desmond Jennings sprained his left middle finger on Saturday, but further tests Monday revealed a fracture, putting him on the 15-day disabled list.

Light-hitting Jason Bourgeois was called up to replace him on the roster.

The loss of Jennings is a big one for the Rays. His .258/.326/.419 line in 415 at-bats may not seem all that stellar, ranking just about average as far as AL center fielder’s go, but the only other player on Tampa Bay’s roster to see even an inning in center field this season, Sam Fuld, is batting .198/.270/.278 in 126 at-bats. Bourgeois, a 31-year-old journeyman, was hitting .291/.336/.371 in Triple-A.

The Rays do have the option of going to Wil Myers in center. It was his primary position between Double- and Triple-A in the Royals system last year. However, the Rays were using him strictly as a right fielder even before his callup in June; he hasn’t made an appearance at any other position this year.

It suggests that the Rays will try to get by with a Fuld-Bourgeois platoon until Jennings returns, with Fuld starting against righties and Bourgeois playing versus lefties. If the Rays do want to mix it up, they could use Myers in center with groundball pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Alex Cobb (currently on the DL) starting. But it’s probably not worth it.

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.