Last season’s Pace of Play initiatives were slightly successful, shaving six minutes off the average length of the game from the season before. In 2015, the average length of games dropped from 3:02 to 2:56, though games were slower in the second half of the season (2:59) than they were in the first half (2:53).
Now, MLB and owners are considering two more changes that could help speed up the game again this season.
The first would be a possible time limit for managers to call for a pitching change during an inning. The idea would be to remove the slow walk to the mound used as a stalling technique or to get the pitcher in the bullpen a few more warm up pitches.
The other change is a modification of one of the new initiatives introduced last season and would reduce the between inning clock from 2:25 to 2:05 for non-nationally televised games. Once again, the batter would be expected to be in the box and ready when the clock runs out and the pitcher would be expected to deliver the pitch when the clock hits zero.
While neither change has been officially approved, the two sides are said to be “closing in” on an agreement to implement both for next season.
Another potential rule change being discussed is raising the bottom edge of the strike zone from the hollow at the bottom of the knee cap to the top of the knee cap, which is where the zone had been prior to 1996. However, any change to the zone cannot be instituted by the owners and must be collectively bargained. The change is likely to be discussed during the upcoming CBA negotiations which means it won’t be implemented until 2017 at the earliest.
During the playoffs last season, Joe Maddon was considering a potential switch and asked Kyle Schwarber if he could play third base. Schwarber agreed, went to the locker room to grab a glove and returned to the dugout. At which point Schwarber confessed to catching coach Mike Borzello that he had never played third base in his life. The willingness to try a new position during a playoff game highlights Schwarber’s willingness to play wherever the team asks, be it left field or catcher.
Matthew Trueblood at BP Wrigleyville makes the case for the Cubs NOT extending Theo Epstein. He makes a better argument than you’d think, but…no.
MLB.com’s Pipeline continued their prospect rankings with the Top 10 Shortstops, including the Cubs’ Gleyber Torres at #9 based on his “solid-or-better tools across the board”. Nine sounded a little low to me on first glance, but it’s hard to say that any of the players ahead of him should move down. The Dodgers’ Corey Seager (who is probably not a shortstop in the long run) and J.P. Crawford of the Phillies topped the list.
In yesterday’s rankings, Jeimer Candelario came in at #7 on MLB.com’s list of Top 10 Third Base Prospects, even though he appears to be blocked in Chicago. Following a down 2014 season, Candelario rebounded last year and reached AA where he posted an .841 OPS, which was better than he hit a A+ ball. According to MLB.com’s write up, the switch hitting 22 year-old projects to have above average hit tools and “all the necessary tools to stick at third base, including soft hands and above-average arm strength”.
CBS Sports began their positional rankings and have Anthony Rizzo as the 4th best First Baseman and Miguel Montero at #14 among the top Catchers. Rizzo ranks behind Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto, which is probably about right, though it’s not a stretch to expect him to be higher on next year’s list. However, #14 struck me as really low for Montero who ranked 9th last season in fWAR, especially given that he is below a number of players who missed large chunks of 2015 with injuries. But it’s probably best not to get too upset about made up rankings.
Jim Callis named Dylan Cease as the Cubs prospect to break out this year, saying he will be “two years removed from TJ surgery & ready to take off”.
Grant Brisbee ranked the top 3-4-5 combinations in baseball using OPS+ and the Cubs come in second to the Blue Jays. The Cubs group of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber actually ranked fifth using the numbers, but were bumped up to second due to their ages and small sample sizes. Brisbee adds that “the Cubs should probably be first”, but wants to wait to see how the league adjusts to Bryant and Schwarber, which is fair.
With the DH not likely to be added to the National League anytime soon, Dan Vogelbach continues to focus on improving at first base and wants to learn everything he can from Rizzo. “Obviously, Rizzo is the first baseman of the Chicago Cubs and that’s not going to change. So I can’t worry about what he does or how he performs. I can only worry about what I do. So if [the DH] opens up, that’s another chance and another bat in the lineup. But right now, I’m just going to continue to try to be the best first baseman I can be.”
One-time Cubs minor leaguer Ronald Torreyes was designated for assignment by the Angels today and will be seeking his sixth new team in the past eight months. Since May 7, 2015, Torreyes has been with the Astros, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees and Angels, including just three days with the Yankees and two with the Angels.
Dexter Fowler is worth surrendering a draft pick to sign writes Ken Rosenthal, but adds that “clubs are using the picks as a negotiating tactic against lower-level compensation free agents”. Rosenthal names the Angels, White Sox and Orioles as teams who could use Fowler, though all three would need to use him in a corner outfield spot. Rosenthal also expects the Qualifying Offer system to be discussed during the upcoming CBA negotiations.
Cubs OF Chris Coghlan will be a guest this week on MLB.com’s Statcast podcast with Mike Petriello.
Patrick Mooney examines how the Cubs built their 2016 pitching staff by spreading the money around to multiple options. Rather than signing David Price or surrendering the package for Shelby Miller, the Cubs chose to add John Lackey and Adam Warren, while also bringing back Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, and Travis Wood. This wasn’t the Cubs plan according to Theo Epstein, but the team had to adjust to the market.
“We really came to feel like the price of poker was very high to acquire starting pitching,” Epstein said. “Years and dollars were really significant for starters of note in free agency — and came with a significant amount of risk, frankly, that we weren’t completely comfortable with. “(In) the trade market, we felt like in a lot of cases we would have had to pay like two dollars on the dollar almost in return.
More News and Notes
Cuban free agent teenager Lazarito (Lazaro Armenteros) has begun negotiating with teams and expects to make a decision by February 10, which is the first date he’s eligible to sign. He is also expected to hold some private workouts with individual teams after over 140 team executives attended his showcase in the Dominican earlier this month.
With 10 teams already facing restrictions in the 2016 International Free Agent class, the Braves, Nationals and Padres are all expected to spend heavily. The Braves in particular are seen as likely to attack the market, with Atlanta being the front runners for 16 year old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, who is among the best July 2 prospects of the past decade.
The Rays are showing interest in free agent shortstop Ian Desmond on a one-year pillow deal, though the Rays are reluctant to part with their first round pick (#13 overall).
The Orioles were still in on Yoenis Cespedes after signing Chris Davis and Jon Heywamn Tweets that Baltimore had a five year deal on the table last Friday,
The Nationals agreed to a minor league deal with veteran SP Bronson Arroyo that includes an invitation to Spring Training. The 38 year-old right-hander will receive a $2M base salary if he makes the team and can earn an additional $8M in incentives if he makes 32 starts.
MySpace founder Tom Anderson offered to pay Tim Lincecum‘s salary if the Giants were willing to bring him back. And if you don’t know what MySpace is (was?), kindly get off my lawn.
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