andre ethier getty

Andre Ethier aiming to return for Game 3 of NLCS

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Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier played nearly 13 whole innings in Friday night’s NLCS Game 1 loss to the Cardinals and woke up on Saturday morning with renewed soreness in his troublesome lower left leg. Ethier was on the bench for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon but the situation has apparently improved.

According to beat writers Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, Ethier is “confident” that he will be able to return to the starting lineup in Game 3 on Monday at Dodger Stadium. Sunday’s day off should help matters.

Ethier is 1-for-9 with two walks and four strikeouts so far in the 2013 postseason. Skip Schumaker played center field in NLCS Game 2 on Saturday and will probably fill in again in Game 3 if Ethier can’t go.

The status of shortstop Hanley Ramirez (rib cage) is still unclear.

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

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, seven made the playoffs. Only the Twins and Diamondbacks 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.