Mets closer Bobby Parnell showed decreased velocity while blowing a save against the Nationals on Opening Day and the team just announced that he has a partially torn MCL in his elbow.
Parnell has been told to rest for two weeks, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that surgery has not been ruled out eventually if the time off and platelet-rich plasma injections don’t do the trick.
All of which means that Jose Valverde has gone from scrap-heap minor-league signing to the Mets’ closer in … well, one game. He certainly has plenty of closing experience with 286 career saves.
Parnell had velocity issues throughout spring training and it was clearly he wasn’t fully recovered from neck surgery, but the Mets were committed to sticking with him in the closer role anyway. Now the job goes to the 36-year-old Valverde, who was released by the Tigers last season after just 19 innings.
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:
+10 Blue Jays
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:
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.
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.