Hisashi Iwakuma AP

Mariners activate Hisashi Iwakuma for season debut

Leave a comment

As expected, the Mariners have activated right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma from the disabled list. He’ll make his season debut this afternoon against the Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

It’s been a long road back for Iwakuma, who suffered a strained ligament in his right middle finger in a freak accident back in January when he got it caught in some netting during a workout. While surgery wasn’t needed, he was shut down from throwing for just over one month. Iwakuma progressed from bullpen sessions to simulated games before throwing four innings in a minor league rehab start with Triple-A Tacoma last Sunday. That was enough to convince the Mariners that he was ready to return.

Iwakuma is coming off a breakthrough campaign in which he posted a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts en route to a third-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award balloting. The Mariners are hoping that he’s ready to pick up from where he left off.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.