Braves Pitching

Here are two groups of players who pitched for the Braves this season.

John Smoltz
Chuck James
Kyle Davies
Jo-Jo Reyes
Jose Ascanio
Macay McBride
Anthony Lerew
Joey Devine
Blaine Boyer
Kevin Barry

Tim Hudson
Buddy Carlyle
Lance Cormier
Mark Redman
Bob Wickman
Peter Moylan
Tyler Yates
Rafael Soriano
Oscar Villarreal
Chad Paronto
Ron Mahay
Manny Acosta
Mike Gonzalez
Wilfredo Ledezma
Jeff Bennett
Octavio Dotel
Steve Colyer
Royce Ring

The former group includes Braves farm products, the latter group are pitchers whom the Braves brought in from elsewhere. Yes, I know that Smoltz spent some time in the Tigers organization, and some of the non-Braves group have put in short stints in the minors with the Braves, but I want to keep this simple. The lists reveal an unsettling trend for Braves fans: most of the decent pitching is coming from the outside. And the bad news continues as any potential help is too far down in the organization to count on.

I’ve heard a good bit of grumbling among Braves fans about Roger McDowell, but I’m not sure there is much to complain about. The Braves are tied for fourth in the NL ERA and the pitching staff has an ERA+ of 105. As ugly as some of the Braves pitching has been with the fourth and fifth starter spots, the team has survived. Yes, it would be nice if some of the younger products had performed better, but looking at this pattern, I’m not so sure it’s McDowell’s fault. With the sea of ill-will that followed Leo Mazzone out of town, we heard similar complaints about his inability to work with young pitchers. But, now I wonder if the problem has more to do with deficiencies in instruction or scouting of pitchers.

I believe Roger received a big vote of confidence when Davies was traded. If the front office considered McDowell the problem, I don’t think they would have moved Kyle. The Braves need young and cheap starters more than old and expensive relievers. The Braves gave up on Davies, not their pitching coach. I will not be surprised if some minor league pitching instructors move on after the season.

9 Responses “Braves Pitching”

  1. Dave says:

    I agree that McDowell is not at fault. In fact, I believe that a healthy Renteria after the July 31 may have enabled the offense to oevercome the deficiencies of the back end of the rotation to win the division or wild card (they still haven’t been eliminated). If that had happened many fans would have viewed the same pitching staff and same results in a different light.

    As an aside, Rob Neyer blogged a couple weeks ago that with this season (and perhaps last season) Leo Mazzone’s reputation has to take a hit. I’ll be interested to see possibly in the offseason what JC’s thoughts are about Mazzone’s current results and if that changes his reputation as a pitching guru. I bring this up since it seems impossible to evaluate McDowell without a comparison to Mazzzone.

  2. Andrew says:

    I don’t know why Leo’s reputation would take a hit because of the past two seasons. Erik Bedard has transformed into a Cy Young candidate.

    I think the Braves struggled developing pitchers and have become better at identifying top hitting talent (Francouer, McCann, Salty, KJ, Yesco in top 2 rounds) as opposed to top pitching talent (Beau Jones, McBride, Atilano, Meyer in 1st round) and the jury is still out on JoJo and Devine. Also, I think the low minors shows great pitching potential, but we’ll have to see about Hanson, Rohrbaugh, etc.

  3. Cliff says:

    The loss of Leo may have been related to or affected the minor league organizational pitching philosophy. That may have been intentional by senior management (Schuerholz, Wren, Moore) but it appears to have changed.

    The Sain-Mazzone system is based on taking mediocre pitchers and making them pretty good pitchers. The “fastball low and away” is the starting point. (Also, emphasis on throwing for arm conditioning rather than weights and rest).
    That can’t be taught at the major league level.

    The unsung hero of the “Mazzone effect” may have been Jim Fregosi. He is specifically the one that said Jaret Wright was worth a trade. I have a feeling the evaluations done by Braves scouts included reference to how much the Sain-Mazzone system might help the new pitchers (and these would be the ones that went into JC’s studies).

  4. Kent says:

    Does anyone know what happend to the blog page? It doesn’t seem to be up anymore. Was a very good Moneyball-themed sight.

  5. Ron says:

    The only advantage of home grown pitching is its cheaper. Greg Maddux and Tim Hudson are two of the best starting pitchers the Braves have had the last 16 years and neither came out of the farm system. It would be nice to develop some new aces, but it’s actually pretty hard. For every Smoltz, there are many more Horacio Ramirezes, Jason Marquises, and Bruce Chens. Several ace quality starters that came up through the Braves system were traded to fill other needs or to save money (Millwood, Schmidt, maybe Wainwright in time). James is at least a serviceable #4 with the chance to develop into something better. Reyes is too early in his career to tell.

    I will say that the Braves seem to like a certain type of starting pitcher (low 90s fastball with little movement and tends to pitch up in the strikezone and give up a lot of flyballs and homeruns) in their drafting that maybe isn’t the ideal type to turn into top of the rotation starters.

  6. mraver says:

    While Peter Moylan certainly didn’t come up through the Braves’ system, I think it’s still the credit for him should go to their scouting and player development department. They took an Aussie with no trackrecord and turned him in to an All Star-quality reliever. I mean, it’s not like he was a big trade get or FA acquisition.

    That said, I basically agree with your premise. I also think it’s interesting that they’ve basically cleaned house in their upper-minors of pitching prospects with the one exception of JoJo Reyes. A change in drafting philosophy leading to recent busts may have been reveresed, and the Rohrbough/Hanson/Locke crowd could be the “new guys”.

    Or maybe it’s just some prospects work out and others do not, and the recent ones have just turned into mediocre players rather than great ones. 🙂

  7. Marc Schneider says:

    The cost factor is a pretty big advantage. Few teams, and certainly not the Braves, can afford to go out and bring in top-flight pitching which most of the time isn’t available anyway. It’s certainly true that developing pitching is a crap shoot, but you have to have more success than the Braves have had. Certainly, drafting late all those years made it difficult for the Braves to get the top pitching talent but the record is still abysmal.

  8. Duman says:

    Realize they have also traded away some of their home grown arms for other needs. Others left as free agents.

    Weren’t Jason Schmidt & Adam Wainright (sp.) all Brave’s system products?

    You are looking a one point and time and missing some other elements.

  9. Mike says:

    Kent – I stopped updating it a while ago, and didn’t renew my web domain, or whatever. I just realized it’s a parked domain right now, taking advantages of links that went to my blog. So I’m in the process of emailing a bunch of nice folks that linked to me to ask them to remove their links. I hate domain parkers, and would rather not help them make money off of my work. Thanks for the kind words though, that means a lot to me.