Or as Repoz calls it: The Mazzone Reflect.
Since we’re about a quarter of the way through the season, I thought I’d check in to see how Leo Mazzone and Roger McDowell are doing with their respective staffs. Before the season began, I predicted that the Orioles would improve over last year and the Braves would get a little worse; however, I was more certain about the former than the latter.
As it turns out, both clubs have struggled with poor pitching, and the Orioles are suffering worse. Here is a comparison of both teams in 2005 and 2006.
O's 2005 2006 Change %Change ERA 4.57 5.64 1.07 23.41% FIP 4.54 5.46 0.92 20.26% K9 6.63 5.96 -0.67 -10.17% BB9 3.66 4.74 1.08 29.58% HR9 1.14 1.39 0.25 22.44% Braves 2005 2006 Change %Change ERA 3.99 4.35 0.36 9.02% FIP 4.15 4.60 0.45 10.84% K9 5.79 6.46 0.67 11.49% BB9 3.24 3.58 0.34 10.38% HR9 0.90 1.14 0.24 26.06%
The staffs on both teams have changed some, but the cores remain basically the same. Interestingly, both clubs are having trouble with home runs. Mazzone’s strength over his career has been in keeping homers down and increasing strikeouts, and both of those measures are moving in the opposite direction. Braves strikeouts have increased, too.
The O’s biggest struggles have come from two pitchers: Bruce Chen and Rodrigo Lopez. These two gentlemen have combined to allow 25 homers in 87 2/3 innings—2.6 per 9 IP, and 45% of the team’s total HRs allowed. For Chen’s part, he seems to be trying. After being chased from Tuesday’s game after surrendering two homers Chen said,
“I know I threw a lot of pitches but I just didn’t want to give in,” said Chen, who needed 95 pitches to get through four. “I think overall, my pitches were better probably. I think it was positive and now, I need to show results.”
That’s Leo’s motto: “don’t give in,” so he’s listening. Although, I’m not sure he’s acting. Chen had a nice year last year, too; so, I’m sure he’s frustrated. Chen has always had a homer problem, though. Leo’s disappointed too, but he’s apparently sticking by his guys.
“He’s not going to get frustrated,” Perlozzo said of Mazzone. “He gets disappointed [if] he’s not helping somebody. He got quiet on the bench the other night in Rodrigo’s [Lopez's] game after he came out. I asked him, ‘You OK?’ He said, ‘I’m OK, but I need to find a way to help that guy.’ You can believe one thing: He’s not going to give up.”
If any one can rally these pitchers, I think it’s Leo. When he first arrived in Atlanta, the pitching had been awful the first part of the season, so he set goals for improvement for the team, and they improved. When John Smoltz struggled early in his career, Mazzone stood by him when everyone wanted him out of the rotation. The same has been true this season with Daniel Cabrera. Though his walks are up, so are his strikeouts, and he’s only allowed one home run. Bedard and Benson have pitched similar to their career numbers.
It’s still early in the season, and too many factors to explain the rise in both team’s ERA through pitching coach changes. Although, it’s still fun to watch, isn’t it?! I’ll keep the Mazzone Meter running.