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Friday, July 25, 2014

5 for Friday: Leo Mazzone, pitching coach to the HOFers

“the hitters are off the ‘roids and the amphetamines for chrissake!” I’m now going to use this to end every bargument I get into.

5. MALINOWSKI: There’s been a trend this season where we’re seeing more position players pitch in games than ever before, but the Braves haven’t had one do so since 1989, the longest such streak for any team. Was that something that was just never considered, and what do you make of this new acceptance we’re seeing these days?

MAZZONE: Yeah, I know it wasn’t when I was there. There’s no way. That’s an embarrassment. That’s embarrassing your pitching staff.

No, it wasn’t considered at all. What we’d do is, if we felt we were short and it could go a long way in extra innings, I held back one of the starter’s practice sessions, so that he was available down in the bullpen if it went extra innings. And then if it looked like he wasn’t going to go in, then he could have his practice session, to get ready for his next start. That happened very rarely.

If someone has the sense to figure this out — which we did — if you have your setup guys learn how to throw great straight changes, how many times do you have to change righty/righty, lefty/lefty? It negates a changing of the pitcher for every single hitter. So therefore you don’t use as many pitchers.

Now, why’s it going on a record pace? Because there’s eight pitchers used every game, four on one side at least and four on another! So therefore, you run out. It’s absolutely asinine how pitching staffs have been handled in the big leagues so far, the trend anyway. They’ll say, “Well, everyone’s pitching good.” Well, they’re pitching good because the hitters are off the ‘roids and the amphetamines for chrissake! I mean, let’s be real about all this. And the way (Maddux and Glavine) pitched and they’re going in the Hall of Fame and they did that in the era of offensive baseball? Makes it even more of a tremendous accomplishment.

Repoz Posted: July 25, 2014 at 10:16 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. Chris Needham Posted: July 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4757514)
This whole thing is very good. It's worth the click through.
   2. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 11:05 AM (#4757521)
My favorite Leo Mazzone story comes, if my memory serves, from Roger Kahn's collection of short biographies of pitchers. Steve Avery was getting lit up and was doing Steve Avery things, overthrowing every pitch, storming around the mound and so on. Mazzone came out to try to settle him down. Avery glared at him and screamed, "What the #### do you want?"

Mazzone said, "I just came out here to tell you to go #### yourself," and returned to the dugout.
   3. Sweatpants Posted: July 25, 2014 at 11:07 AM (#4757524)
He said, "Leo, before the last game of the season, I want to have Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Charlie Liebrandt and Pete Smith. I want those five guys in the dugout at 2 o'clock with you and me." I said, “OK.”

We get there — and it's end of the season, so everyone's going to scatter after the last game — and he says, "I want to tell you five guys right now that we're going into spring training in 1991 and you're the five starters. You're going to be the five starters in spring training. You're going to be the five starters for the whole season. And you're going to be the five starters who take us as far as we can go. So I want you to prepare your mindset for that." So they became the five starters in spring training, they didn't miss any starts the whole year, and we got to the seventh game of the World Series.
This is mostly true, but the fifth starter role ended up being split between Smith and three other guys. That they got 141 starts (plus 14 more in the postseason) out of their top four starters is incredible.
   4. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM (#4757536)
The 2005 White Sox also memorably rode four perfectly healthy starters (only six guys started a game for them all year; the ancient Orlando Hernandez and young Brandon McCarthy split the fifth starter role) to the world championship.

Luck in the form of pitcher health is a lot more important to a team's fortunes in a given year than I, and indeed I suspect than most people, tend to realize.
   5. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 25, 2014 at 11:59 AM (#4757582)
The 2003 Mariners only used five starters, but finished second in the wild card.
   6. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4757586)
I misread the headline: I thought it was arguing that Mazzone, pitching coach should join the "HOFers".
   7. Tubbs & Minnie Miñoso don't fear Sid Monge Posted: July 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM (#4757605)
I wouldn't mind seeing Leo Mazzone or Johnny Sain go in the HOF but would only want to see them on a non-player ballot (I want to see the HOF split the mgrs, execs, coaches, and other non players on their own ballot)
   8. Dale Sams Posted: July 25, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4757607)
I say use more position players if they actually pitched competitively in high school* or college.

*Meaning they faced good competition and were any good themselves.
   9. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: July 25, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4757608)
Mazzone said, "I just came out here to tell you to go #### yourself," and returned to the dugout.

Ah, the days when Steve Avery was the talented one!
   10. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:00 PM (#4757616)
Mazzone's stock really plummeted when he went to the Orioles and basically was able to accomplish very little.
   11. Moeball Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:06 PM (#4757623)
Mazzone's stock really plummeted when he went to the Orioles and basically was able to accomplish very little.


I'm trying to think - have there been any pitching coaches who really had notable success with more than one team? The only possibilities I can think of would maybe be George Bamberger, Johnny Sain? Was Jim Kaat a pitching coach at some point? I seem to recall he was.
   12. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4757627)
Curt Young has been a genius for the A's but it didn't work out for him in his brief interlude in Boston. I think, more than one person, it's the organizational set up that matters. If your baseball club relies on one coach, that's probably a problem.
   13. Moeball Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:17 PM (#4757629)
Well, they’re pitching good because the hitters are off the ‘roids and the amphetamines for chrissake!


So apparently Leo believes:

1)PEDs only help hitters and not the pitchers, thus the removal of PEDs can only make offense go down. In which case, how come since testing started, an unusually high % of pitchers have been the ones getting caught taking PEDs? Why would they take something that doesn't help them?

2)There aren't any PEDs being used by anyone any more because offense is down.

Leo's a smart pitching coach, I'll give him that - but he's a bit out there when it comes to this other stuff.
   14. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:21 PM (#4757632)

1)PEDs only help hitters and not the pitchers, thus the removal of PEDs can only make offense go down. In which case, how come since testing started, an unusually high % of pitchers have been the ones getting caught taking PEDs? Why would they take something that doesn't help them?


Or maybe he doesn't believe that if both hitters and pitchers take PEDs, the effects magically cancel each other out and you see no change.
   15. tfbg9 Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4757633)
"The one thing I told Maddux when I knew he wasn't coming back after his last run with the Braves, he was walking out the door and I said, "You know, you taught me more than I ever taught you." And he said, "Yeah, but you gave me some good tips." And with Glavine, Tommy was the never-give-in guy, and that was something he and I talked about all the time. He said, "Hitters have ego, and I can take advantage of that." And then with John Smoltz, it was great stuff and about just keeping him from getting too emotional at times. But he was able to change that emotion into totally upgrading his game when there was more money on the line."

Paging Ray...
   16. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: July 25, 2014 at 01:48 PM (#4757645)
And he said, "Yeah, but you gave me some good tips."

I love the way this sounds.

"Oh Johnny, I love you with all my heart." "Thanks, babe, you were a good lay."
   17. bunyon Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:01 PM (#4757652)
I really wish Maddux hadn't made so much money. I wish he needed a job. Because I'd love to see what he could do as a pitching coach or manager.

As for Leo and, really, all coaches. I think they have to fit the system and players, as said above. You can't take the CEO of Apple and make them CEO of GM and expect they can just do their magic (you get the idea). Leo was a great - all time great - in Atlanta with Cox and the Braves system. Saying one was more important than the other is impossible.
   18. Ron J2 Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4757663)
#17 I think sometimes the manager and pitching coach are tightly tied together in terms of effectiveness. Felipe Alou and Joe Kerrigan had a great run while working together in Montreal. Neither was anywhere near as successful on their own.
   19. Mark Armour Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:20 PM (#4757668)
I'm trying to think - have there been any pitching coaches who really had notable success with more than one team? The only possibilities I can think of would maybe be George Bamberger, Johnny Sain? Was Jim Kaat a pitching coach at some point? I seem to recall he was.


Obviously Sain. He had great success in New York, Minnesota, Detroit and with the White Sox. When he was let go by the Twins after the 1966 season, Jim Kaat (who had just won 25 games) wrote a letter to the Minneapolis Tribune, which they ran on Page 1, saying that if he ever ran a team he would hire Sain first, and the secondly find a manager that could get along with him. Kaat worked with him again in Chicago, and won 20 two more times (the only three times he won 20 in his career). Whitey Ford had three great seasons under Ford, but when Yogi Berra took over he fired Sain and hired Ford as player-coach. Sain got 20 wins out of Mudcat Grant, 31 out of Denny McLain, 20 out of Stan Bahnsen. He worked well with fireballers (Lolich) and great knuckleballers (Wood).

He had an amazing career. He also mentored Mazzone, who adopted Sain's philosophies.
   20. bigglou115 Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4757675)
I've just never been that sold on Leo as a great pitching coach. His rotation in ATL was just stupid talented. The only way they don't make you look good is if you go in and literally break their arms. But also was always known for reviving careers, usually in the bullpen. His reclamation jobs were second only to Dave Duncan who could occasionally even fix starters. The problem with that though, when it comes to Leo's reputation, is that it was an open secret that Bobby had more hands on coaching time with the pen than Leo did.

I think the Orioles tenure, and the fact that both Bobby and McDowell have revived a few careers since Leo left, really cast a doubt as to how much magic Leo had. Also, every time he talks it's just "low and away, just throw everything low and away." Nobody did that with the Braves. Sure, Glavine and Maddux worked the outside a lot, but Glavine's put away pitch was his cutter against lefties and his change against righties. Kind of a "no duh" moment. And I'm pretty sure Maddux just did whatever he wanted. That leaves Smoltz, who pitched up in the zone as much as anyone I've ever seen. Fastball up, slider down and away, fastball up swinging strikeout. Once he added the splitter he worked low more, but it wasn't until the fastball started averaging below 90 that he really gave up the upper half.
   21. Curse of the Andino Posted: July 25, 2014 at 03:44 PM (#4757722)
I think the Orioles tenure, and the fact that both Bobby and McDowell have revived a few careers since Leo left, really cast a doubt as to how much magic Leo had.


The O's were such a mess in the minors as well as the majors when Leo came on. He couldn't do that much with the "talent," and he didn't really have a free hand. I guess he's too old, but he deserves another shot.
   22. Brian Posted: July 25, 2014 at 04:27 PM (#4757737)
Not pitching position players as pitchers cost the Braves the opportunity to kickstart Jeff Franceours second career.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:34 PM (#4757897)
I'm trying to think - have there been any pitching coaches who really had notable success with more than one team? The only possibilities I can think of would maybe be George Bamberger, Johnny Sain? Was Jim Kaat a pitching coach at some point? I seem to recall he was.


Dave Duncan with the Cardinals and A's did a pretty good job for both. And he didn't hurt the White Sox.

#17 I think sometimes the manager and pitching coach are tightly tied together in terms of effectiveness. Felipe Alou and Joe Kerrigan had a great run while working together in Montreal. Neither was anywhere near as successful on their own.


Good point.
   24. Howie Menckel Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4757902)

"I really wish Maddux hadn't made so much money. I wish he needed a job. Because I'd love to see what he could do as a pitching coach or manager."

Does any other HOFer have a brother who made a living as a MLB pitching coach? You got about as close to your wish as you could ever get without actually getting it.

   25. Good cripple hitter Posted: July 26, 2014 at 01:10 AM (#4757950)
I'm trying to think - have there been any pitching coaches who really had notable success with more than one team? The only possibilities I can think of would maybe be George Bamberger, Johnny Sain? Was Jim Kaat a pitching coach at some point? I seem to recall he was.


Does Roger Craig count? I only know him from a few Roger Angell and Bill James pieces that talk about his teaching of the split-finger fastball, but he might be an answer.
   26. bjhanke Posted: July 26, 2014 at 02:41 AM (#4757958)
Sain is a really interesting story, both as a player and as a coach. The coach stuff has been posted, but his career was just as odd. He came up at the same time as Warren Spahn, right before WWII. They both got in one full season of very good pitching and then went to the war. When they came back, both of them took off from just about where they had been; the war didn't seem to affect them at all. But, while Spahn went on to pitch a huge number of innings in his career, Sain flamed out quickly.

My personal opinion of Spahn is that he's one of the very best exhibits of the effect of having a light pitching load when you're young. He missed whole years when he was young, and ended up with as long a career as anyone in the 20th century. Sain flamed out, even though he had the same light workload advantage. Why? Again, I wasn't there (I was born in 1947), but my strong belief is that what happened is that Spahn, who relied on the fastball and the slider, didn't put nearly as much strain on his arm as Sain, who was a curve ball artist. Sain very likely learned a huge amount from watching his arm fall off while Warren's just kept going. That's an unusually strong, short learning curve for a pitching coach. Sain took full advantage. I can't think of a single successful pitcher coached by Sain who lived on his curve, which was Sain's best pitch as a player, although there are probably one or two out there. - Brock Hanke
   27. DFA Posted: July 26, 2014 at 04:00 AM (#4757960)
The O's were such a mess in the minors as well as the majors when Leo came on. He couldn't do that much with the "talent," and he didn't really have a free hand. I guess he's too old, but he deserves another shot.


This is 100% accurate. Mazzoe should have known not to go to the Orioles, the fact that he couldn't cure them only proved that he was human after all.

Luck in the form of pitcher health is a lot more important to a team's fortunes in a given year than I, and indeed I suspect than most people, tend to realize.


The 2008 Rays needed only 9 starts outside their top 5 for the entire season.
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: July 26, 2014 at 05:00 AM (#4757962)

The 2008 Rays needed only 9 starts outside their top 5 for the entire season.


The 2005 Cardinals got two starts outside of their top five.... there are other teams.... but an in between team of losing the world series in 2004 and winning in 2006 is at least interesting..

   29. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: July 26, 2014 at 08:12 AM (#4757965)
For the 2004 Red Sox, following Bronson Arroyo replacing BK Kim after three starts, there were only two starts made by pitchers other than the five man rotation. One was by Abe Alvarez in a double header and the other was by Pedro Astacio in game 161 in a double header.
   30. McCoy Posted: July 26, 2014 at 08:28 AM (#4757967)
Spahn was a bit of a freak and his arm was abused as a young pitcher. He hurt his shoulder in the minors. Snapping tendons and the team gave him two weeks off. After two weeks Spahn went out there to pitch and collapsed in pain on the mound and they finally shut him down for the year. I said it before but once Spahn moved away from throwing hard fastballs he basically turned into Tom glavine.
   31. Mike Emeigh Posted: July 26, 2014 at 11:07 AM (#4758000)
But, while Spahn went on to pitch a huge number of innings in his career, Sain flamed out quickly.


Sain was three years older than Spahn; he didn't hit the majors until he was 24 and then lost three years to WWII. When he went over to the Yankees in 1951, Stengel used him as a swingman and then moved him into the ace reliever role in 1954, where he thrived at age 36.

Sain was traded for Lew Burdette. Pretty clear who got the best of that one.

-- MWE
   32. Mike Emeigh Posted: July 26, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4758003)
The Pirates in 1997 used only seven starters all year; their top five starters took the hill for 157 of 162 starts. That was the only Pirates team during the losing run that made it interesting, getting within a game and a half of the division lead as late as September 2 despite being a game under .500. The backbreaker was probably the September 9 game in Montreal, in which the Bucs took an early 3-0 lead, gave it back, took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th, got within one out of a win, but couldn't close the deal. That one shoved the Pirates 3 1/2 back with 17 to play, and while they retained a mathematical chance into the last week the Astros more or less matched them game for game down the stretch.

-- MWE

   33. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 26, 2014 at 11:18 AM (#4758004)
The 2012 Reds got 161 starts from Cueto, Latos, Leake, Bailey and Arroyo. The other one was in a double-header by Todd Redmond, who never pitched for the Reds before or since.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: July 26, 2014 at 08:26 PM (#4758224)
Pitcher health: There's "luck" and then there's magic. :-) The White Sox had a ridiculous run for years where they needed very few starts outside their top 5 (or seasons where 4 of the 5 were fully healthy and the #5 spot got split between two pitchers). The Braves pitchers were mostly ridiculously healthy under Cox/Mazzone.

For the Sox, it wasn't just the 2005 team. the 06 team needed only 3 starts outside the top 5; 2007 just 12; 2008 just 9. 2009 did need 32 (still better than average) and, while 2010 needed 21, 11 of those went to Edwin Jackson after the trade (i.e. even Don Cooper couldn't keep Peavy healthy). 2011 had 4 fully healthy starters plus the Jackson/Peavy combo again. It was a really good run.

Pitching coaches: Always hard to tell, especially since I'm too lazy to dig into projections, etc., but Larry Rothschild seemed very good with the Cubs, seemed good with the Marlins (was there for the WS). His Yankees tenure hasn't been anything special and they certainly haven't magically kept pitchers healthy. But those Cub teams pretty much always led the NL in Ks and, once Dusty left, did fine in walks and it seemed that most borderline pitchers who came to the Cubs improved a bit or at least saw a nice bump in K rate.

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