Thanks for everything.
The Mazzone Effect Revisited
Thursday, October 20th, 2005,
by JC and is filed under "Braves, Pitching ".
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As a baseball fan, I hate to see him leave the Braves. I think he and Cox and Glavine and Maddux and Smoltz and Schuerholz should go into the HOF on a six-headed plaque.
On the other hand, the Phillies fan in me is smiling.
I was wondering about any connections between the recent praise, particularly ESPN features on the success of Mazzone, his current year to year contract despite the fact that he has been a member of the organization for about 25 years, his “peanuts” salary relative to all the people who admire his work in MLB and the salary status of people he has helped get their current level of achievement. The “unsung praise of the humble teacher” in me admires his career record. But in these days, respect is also measured by money. I can only conclude that the organization at levels above Leo took his hard work and dedication for 25 years for granted. or even in a lower estimation. For I have my doubts they would have accepted the same salary relative to their associates in the club house. If I were Bobby, I would say “Go for it! I hope you find some one who appreciates you more than what the Braves have shown over the past 10 years.”
As far as the future of the Braves young pitching staff and the new bull pen members coming in….Leo’s departure is troubling. If I were a rookie pitcher, one of the chief benefits of getting (and trying to stay there) to the major league club is the opportunity to work with both Leo and Bobby. Now 50% of that expectation has been removed. The Braves philosophy, as quoted in numerous sources I am too lazy to reference, and even from Leo himself promote an emphasis on pitching. Now that pitching CEO is gone. He isn’t just another peg to place in the round hole, a widget in the organization. He was the most visible face of the support structure. He had credibility because of the record of the staff accumulated over 14 + years. This can be replaced by a new person’s record that will be compared to Leo. the closest thing this reminds me of is the succession of rookies who replace Dodger icons in the 1980’s. the pressure was so great on them to succeed now. Several were thrown in the fire and rejected succcessively. I would guess there will be immediate disappointment among the rookies especially when things become rough next year. I will even predict that next year is the year we loose the string of division championships. And not to say that is a bad thing, either. The grand old oak tree that the organization has been staving off a more thorough renewal until this year. New growth at all levels should take over. Bobby, depending on how much his record of victories standing means to him, will seriously consider retirement next year. At this moment, is when the acuity and precision in prescribing the most appropriate remedy of JS as GM will be tested the most.
the Braves pitching hasn’t been all that great the last few years, since Glavine and Maddux aged and left and Smoltz hurt his arm. The staff used to have great kk/bb ratios and now they are terrible. Does that reflect the lesser talent the Braves now have or that Leo’s message is no longer getting across? I don’t know and I don’t want to suggest that Leo is not a great, great pitching coach. The fact that they have been able to have relatively low ERAs despite the higher number of walks and fewer strikeouts suggests that the coaching staff (including Bobby and Leo) have been getting a lot more out of the pitching staff than should have been expected. My guess is that if the staff pitches like they did last year, the ERAs will be much higher and the Braves will struggle. Hopefully, the new pitching coach will be able to restore the old philosophy of commanding the strke zone–it doesn’t seem that Leo was able to get it across to these guys the last couple of years. Maybe Leo just got tired of working with guys like Ramirez who couldn’t throw strikes.
Making lemonade out of lemons: The sample size for studying the Mazzone effect will increase.
As for the Braves–it’s just plain foolish not to pay Mazzone $400k. The additional $200k that it would cost to keep him would have a much greater effect on the Braves pitching performance than any other way of spending it. Tom Martin for $1 million but not another $200k for Mazzone–nuts.
I agree with you on both points. To put the Braves penny pinching in perspective, they paid Todd Hollandsworth about $180,000 to take away 41 PAs from Johnson and Langerhans (the lefty outfielders already on the team). JS is willing to do this, but not budge on Mazzone? Ridiculous.
I don’t think he left because he valued the extra dollars (although they certainly didn’t hurt). The Braves unwillingness to put forth the money for him, when they’re so willing to throw it around on a guy like Hollandsworth, is just rude.
I think it would be interesting to study the implied value of a pitching coach. If the range of salaries of pitching coaches are 150k to 450k, that implies that the maximum value a coach can bring to say a $40mn/yr pitching staff is about .2/40 = 0.5% (less than 1%). This suggests that teams treat pitching coaches as if they had essentially no impact on the value of their investments in pitchers. This may suggest a market inefficiency. What is the cost of buying ERA? Is it more efficient to lower a team’s ERA by spending an extra $10mn on pitching, or can that same improvement be had by spending an extra $1mn on pitching coaching?
My guess? A “gentleman’s agreement” among MLB teams to not bid up the price of each others’ coaches to their true market value.
I would abolish antitrust law, so I don’t think such collusion should be illegal, but a smart team would look into breaking any such cartel rules.
I, too, suspect that there is more to Mazzone’s move than money. One factor, already much remarked upon, is his friendship with O’s manager Perlozzo. Other possibilities: Maybe he expects a Cox retirement. Perhaps the move is a reflection of front office turmoil in ATL (I’m told that McGuirk isn’t well-liked–indeed I’ve heard that if Stan Kasten is successful in buying that Nats that there might be wholesale defections from ATL to DC). Of course, anything at this point is speculation.
I believe that Mazzone was definitely miffed at the Braves front office. In the current online version of the Atlanta paper, they have an article in which Mazzone spoke about why he went to the Orioles. He said that he chose Baltimore over Atlanta because of Sam Perlozzo. I found that an odd way of putting it. Given his tenure at Atlanta, I would have expected him to say that he left the Braves because of Perlozzo. The way he put it made it sound like he was gone in any case. If I had to guess, I would say that he resents the front office’s low-balling and Schuerholz’s refusal to give him a multi-year contract.
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