Checking in on Mazzone

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.

4 Responses “Checking in on Mazzone”

  1. Marc says:

    Wouldn’t the walks be more of a concern than the home runs? There have been pitchers that gave up a lot of homers (Bert Blyleven and I believe Don Sutton) but were still successful. If you give up walks and home runs, you are obviously in trouble, but I would rather have a guy give up a solo homer or two than walk a couple of guys and then give up a homer.

    Also, it seems as if the Braves strikeouts went down and walks went up the last several years even with Leo around. Obviously, without taking on bit away from Leo, it’s a lot easier being a pitching coach when you have Maddux and Glavine.

    The O’s are such a dysfunctional organization, it doesn’t surprise me that Leo is having problems. That may not be logical but it seems to me that bad organizations have bad things happen even when they try to do the right things.

  2. JC says:

    Over their careers, neither Blyleven nor Sutton gave up a lot of homers (.77 and .80 HR9 for their careers). It doesn’t mean you’re critique is invalid, but these guys aren’t the best examples Although they both has a bad season or two.

    Yes, giving up solo shots without walks is preferable to walks followed by a homer. But two walks and no homers is the best outcome of the bunch.

    HR9 is almost more important to me than K/BB, which used to be the first thing I would look at. Chen looks decent until you see his home runs.

  3. Dan Green says:

    Chen came up with the Braves. Wonder if the HR issue is why they pawned him off to the Phils.

  4. Michael Collins says:

    I don’t think Mazzone’s stats mean much, at least as yet, because he has an “outlier” problem, namely Bruce Chen. I have watched him live (from row 3 behind the plate) and on TV several times this year, and it’s a miracle he gets anyone out. His fastball averages 83 with no movement. It’s a sad measure of the talent level of the O’s staff this year that Chen is still pitching.