Crasnick on Mazzone and McDowell

Thanks to Jerry Crasnick for citing my Leo Mazzone study in today’s ESPN.com column.

McDowell walks into an interesting situation as the successor to Mazzone, who carved out an impressive legacy in 15½ seasons with the Braves. J.C. Bradbury, a baseball fan and college professor based in Tennessee, conducted a study that showed having Mazzone as a pitching coach can lower a pitcher’s ERA by more than half a run. But the numbers notwithstanding, the Braves didn’t seem especially upset to see Mazzone leave.

It’s a nice little article that compares the old and new approaches. More so, it’s a nice write-up about McDowell. Once again, we hear the same thing about Leo that has been running through the media since he left: Leo is a foul-mouthed hard ass who didn’t put up with crap, while McDowell is a laid back prankster who will fit with the younger staff. The Braves public relations department is certainly keeping the story straight. Is it a coincidence that the USSR dissolved in the same year Schuerholz came to Atlanta? ;-) But really, what else can they say?

When ESPN.com ran a piece last summer declaring Mazzone the greatest assistant coach in the history of sports, Cox declined to comment. Cox is uncomfortable with the spotlight and values the contributions of all his coaches equally. Mazzone, with his radio show, his books and his perceived flair for self-promotion, appeared to have outgrown the organizational dynamic.

Mazzone’s throwing program clearly helped Atlanta’s starters stay healthy, and his philosophy of pounding hitters down and away worked wonders for pitchers who could execute it. He helped revive the careers of Jaret Wright, John Burkett and numerous others.

But Mazzone can be abrasive, and his style doesn’t resonate with everyone. Kevin Millwood clashed with him, Jason Marquis never warmed to him, and Mazzone failed to turn around Dan Kolb. For all his genius, Mazzone is not a big proponent of ironing out mechanical flaws with the benefit of new-age technology. You’d have a better chance of spotting Bigfoot in the video room.

Maybe this is true, but I have a hard time thinking that Leo could be anything close to the problem with the Braves last year. Maybe he doesn’t deserve all of the credit he’s been getting, but he certainly doesn’t deserve any blame. It’s time to watch the play on the field to put this topic to rest. That is, unless the Braves pitching collapses in 2006 and the O’s blossom.

2 Responses “Crasnick on Mazzone and McDowell”

  1. MicG says:

    Yeah! We can all remember our favorite “nice guy” teachers. Learned a ton from them didn’t we?
    The greatest coaches in sports have been predominently “hard asses”, and the minor league record books are littered with hard headed kids, with lots of talent, who never reach their potential because they think they know better then their coaches.
    As a Braves fan I hope McDowell’s nice guy/class clown approach works. As someone who has followed Leo his entire career and never once saw that “self serving” side the writers report on from their “unnamed” sources, I have serious doubts the “happy face” approach will succeed.

  2. John W. says:

    It would appear that word is quickly spreading at ESPN about your work. Eric Neel is usually very attuned to sabermetrics, and he referenced you in the article he posted today. It’s great to see your name all over these sites.