Diamondbacks bringing back Kirk Gibson, but coaches might be goners


General manager Kevin Towers is committed to keeping Kirk Gibson as the Diamondbacks’ manager next season, but it sounds like his coaching staff might not be so lucky following a disappointing year.

Gibson has talked about taking “100 percent responsibility” for the season, but here’s what Towers told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:

If there are changes to be made. we’re going to probably try to do them rather quickly. … I don’t think anybody’s looking to point a finger to our club finishing around .500 this year because of our coaching staff. What you have to do is look at your product, the people that you have, and make sure you have the right people that are leading that product and coaching that product to get the most out of it. Those are questions that Gibby and I need to talk about.

Piecoro notes that the coaching staff is filled with former All-Stars (Matt Williams, Charles Nagy, Don Baylor, Steve Sax, Alan Trammell) who were praised for their work in 2011 and 2012. And the only real change since then was the departure of Eric Young as first base coach. But when expectations aren’t met and the manager is safe, coaches are always going to be on the chopping block.

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.