40-year-old Bobby Abreu had his first four-hit game since 2011 last night


40-year-old Bobby Abreu was released by the Phillies at the end of spring training, but he continues to be a surprising contributor for the offense-starved Mets.

Hitting cleanup with Curtis Granderson sidelined due to a calf injury, Abreu went 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored last night in a 6-2 victory over the Padres at Citi Field in New York. He doubled and scored in the second inning, singled and scored in the fourth, had an RBI single in the fifth, and knocked in another run with a single in the seventh. The big night gave him his first four-hit game since May 30, 2011 with the Angels.

Abreu is now batting .319/.386/.472 with one home run, 11 RBI, and more walks (nine) than strikeouts (eight) over 83 plate appearances this season. It should be said that 41-year-old Bartolo Colon was the winning pitcher last night after giving up two runs over 7 1/3 innings. He has a 1.83 ERA over his last five starts. The Mets are building around youth, but the old dudes are getting it done right now.

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.