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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bird: Leo Mazzone. Why Is This Guy Out of Baseball?

Bradbury, Bradbury, Bradbury, Almighty! (Inherit the Windows Google or something)

But these arguments fail to give Mazzone credit for those pitchers whose career he turned around while they were with Atlanta only to have them revert back to their ineffective former selves once they had moved on. It happened too often to be a coincidence or just dumb luck. A study was done by J. C. Brady using statistical analysis and comparing the ERA of pitchers who pitched at least one year under Mazzone and one year under a different pitching coach claims that these pitchers ERA was 0.64 less under his coaching and 0.78 higher after leaving the Braves. That’s a very significant difference and one which happened time and time again. That’s a difference which cannot be explained away by mere chance. Some of the more significant examples would include Danny Neagle, Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright.

...So the question remains. Why is Leo Mazzone not the pitching coach for someone? I suspect it might be a combination of things. Those rumors about Bobby Cox? Leaving as he did, Mazzone may have ruffled some baseball feathers. Or perhaps he is happy in his job as a color commentator with Fox Baseball and as a co host on an Atlanta radio station morning show. Those jobs must be less stressful and at 63 years of age, perhaps he wants to merely be an observer to the craft he once had so much success in. Perhaps he thinks that nothing he could ever accomplish to exceed the success he had in Atlanta. Pitching staffs such as those of the great Atlanta era are few and far between. Maybe his experiences in Baltimore left a bitter taste in his mouth.

I don’t know the man and therefore can’t give the definitive answer but if I was an owner or GM, I would certainly ask what it would take to lure him back to the profession he so obviously excelled at. I’d even throw in a rocking chair.

Repoz Posted: February 16, 2012 at 05:42 PM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, history, orioles, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. flournoy Posted: February 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM (#4062851)
Mazzone's commentary in the Braves pre-game radio show leaves something to be desired.
   2. AROM Posted: February 16, 2012 at 06:42 PM (#4062891)
After leaving the Braves Mazzone found a problem he could not fix: the Baltimore Oriole pitching staff. They broke him.
   3. MM1f Posted: February 16, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4062897)
Mazzone is currently working with Tim Tebow, helping Tebow improve his throwing mechanics.

Oh, sorry, that is Noel Mazzone doing that.
   4. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM (#4062911)
helping Tebow

We all know Timmy has the big fella on his side, so he'll be alright.
   5. bigglou115 Posted: February 16, 2012 at 07:57 PM (#4062949)
I don't know, I never felt like Leo did much. He got credit for a lot of bullpen reclamation projects, but supposedly Bobby was always coaching the pen. I'd also point out that there were a few reclimations after Leo left before Bobby retired, so...

Leo always attributed his success to telling pitchers to go low and away, I don't know that any pitching coach in baseball would disagree with that for the majority of their players.
   6. DA Baracus Posted: February 16, 2012 at 08:11 PM (#4062957)
Mazzone's commentary in the Braves pre-game radio show leaves something to be desired.


That something is "changing the channel." He laughs at so many things that aren't funny and really brings nothing to the table. His broadcasting career could give one the impression that he was just the right guy in the right place with those staffs and really had not much to do with their development. His work the Orioles doesn't help dispute that.
   7. bjhanke Posted: February 16, 2012 at 08:27 PM (#4062973)
I got interested for a while in Mazzone and Dave Duncan (I live in STL). So I started looking for the characteristics of the pitchers they worked with, to see if there was any feature that defined a "Mazzone" pitcher and a "Duncan" pitcher. I don't want to claim that I broke their codes or anything, but it did seem that the largest characteristic of Mazzone successes is that they were pitchers who threw VERY few curve balls, relying on multiple sliders for their breaking pitches (Maddux, Glavine, several others). That makes sense; curves are hard on the arm. If you want to double-check, you can find a few sources that use pitch-by-pitch data to break down the pitcher's selection. I don't want to hype any particular source for this; just go with the one you're used to. The effect seems to be very strong, so it should be easy to find.

I could get more info on Duncan, since I read the STL newspaper every day. As far as I can figure out, Dave's main feature was to get his pitchers to stop throwing the 4-seam fastball, which stays high, and use the two-seamer, which sinks. The 4-seam fastball gets a couple of more mph on the radar gun, so that can be a hard sell to the pitcher. Duncan's most famous failure was Anthony Reyes; I remember article after article about their fights over which fastball to use. Anthony just could not wean himself from those extra 2 mph on the gun. And sure enough, he had a disappointing career. The two-seamer gets more ground balls because it sinks, hence the description of Duncan as wanting his guys to "pitch to contact." Duncan pitchers throw a LOT more curve balls than Mazzone pitchers, presumably because curves, too, sink. And sure enough, Duncan's pitchers have more arm problems than Mazzone pitchers do. But when their arms are healthy, they're Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter (or a long list of lesser arms whose pitch distributions look similar to those two). They have talent to start with, and they just don't give up that many homers, and they get a lot of grounders.

I would be delighted to find out that someone besides me has done this type of thing and what they came up with. Multiple sets of eyes are better than one set, even if you're just trying to make sense out of stat lines. - Brock Hanke
   8. Mike A Posted: February 16, 2012 at 09:37 PM (#4063002)
The main issue in Atlanta was that Leo was having trouble working with young pitchers. Mazzone was very much an 'old-school' coach, and his tough guy routine wasn't going over well with the younger crowd...or the veterans who were getting tired of it. Bobby Cox was getting fed up as well. I've also heard part of the problem was Leo getting a swelled head, but that's more rumor. I think the word kinda spread around baseball (adding to it was his dismal Baltimore stint), and it's made him black-balled in a way.

Still, I think the guy was a fantastic pitching coach. But like many older coaches, he kinda lost his way as the years drew on. While his down-and-away style worked for a lot of pitchers, it didn't work for all of them. It was too difficult for him to adapt his ways and his personality to suit the new millennium player.
   9. spike Posted: February 16, 2012 at 09:56 PM (#4063013)
He's an awful broadcaster - but he got more out of the likes Chris Hammond, Jaret Wright, and John Burkett, among others, than I ever thought anyone could.
   10. spike Posted: February 16, 2012 at 10:17 PM (#4063025)
oh, and Danny Neagle? J.C. Brady? WTH?
   11. Tippecanoe Posted: February 16, 2012 at 10:32 PM (#4063030)
He's brutal on the radio, but one smart thing you consistently hear from him is that he doesn't buy into small data samples. Especially when commenting about baseball, but other sports, too, he puts no faith in hot streaks and cold streaks, etc.

This was a characteristic of the Braves organization during the long run -- no panic moves. Maybe Mazzone learned it then, or maybe he worked well with Cox and Schuerholz in part because of this philosophy.
   12. Cooper Nielson Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM (#4063102)
oh, and Danny Neagle? J.C. Brady? WTH?

And don't even get me started on "the success of those dominate Braves pitching staff [sic]."
   13. Belfry Bob Posted: February 17, 2012 at 01:34 AM (#4063127)
Leo was very much an a##hat when he was with the Orioles. He was universally hated by the pitchers, and most of the other coaches as well. Not that you have to be universally liked, but it's awfully hard to coach successfully when everyone hates you.
   14. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: February 17, 2012 at 03:53 AM (#4063162)
I've heard similar things as post 13. Plus he trashed the O's after he left which I didn't think helped his difficult to work with reputation.
   15. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: February 17, 2012 at 03:53 AM (#4063163)
double post.
   16. Something Other Posted: February 17, 2012 at 05:02 AM (#4063168)
A study was done by J. C. Brady using statistical analysis and comparing the ERA of pitchers who pitched at least one year under Mazzone and one year under a different pitching coach claims that these pitchers ERA was 0.64 less under his coaching and 0.78 higher after leaving the Braves. That’s a very significant difference and one which happened time and time again.
Interesting. I imagine there are pitching coaches out there capable of knocking one tenth of a run off a pitching staff's ERA. That'd be worth well over $5 million. Knocking half a run off of two starters' ERA would be worth twice that.
   17. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: February 17, 2012 at 09:43 AM (#4063206)
I just wish he'd get off Atlanta morning radio.
   18. flournoy Posted: February 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM (#4063216)
I always regard Mike Bielecki as the quintessential Mazzone pitcher.
   19. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4063221)
My understanding is that Mazzone's tendencies toward self-aggrandizement and general asshattery were curtailed in Atlanta by his manager, but when he left the Braves, and exited the protection of Bobby Cox (and his no-waves clubhouse) his ego exploded and it just went south immediately with the O's. Of course, as noted above, it was already going south with the Braves. Mazzone had no success whatsoever with young Braves starters after Glavine and Smoltz. He managed good years out of Burkett and Bielieki and the like, but the fact that he couldn't get a league average season or two out of Jason Marquis was his undoing, of sorts.

I don't give him much credit for Chris Hammond, as Hammond was just a freak occurrence of "crazy #### that happens with relievers now and again" IMHO.

When he left Atlanta, the knives came out quickly, particularly from John Smoltz.
   20. DA Baracus Posted: February 17, 2012 at 10:28 AM (#4063229)
I just wish he'd get off Atlanta morning radio.


May I suggest not listening to morning sports talk radio to begin with? They're all terrible.
   21. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 17, 2012 at 10:34 AM (#4063235)
I just wish he'd get off Atlanta morning radio.

May I suggest not listening to morning sports talk radio to begin with? They're all terrible.
We have podcasts now, people. More hours of free audio content that you could plausibly listen to even if you were unemployed. There's no need anymore for EEI or FAN.

Folks sitting in your cars annoyed by morons, unite! You have nothing to lose but your righteous indignation.
   22. Tippecanoe Posted: February 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4063247)
Folks sitting in your cars annoyed by morons, unite! You have nothing to lose but your righteous indignation.


On many days I prefer arriving at work feeling righteously indignant, morally superior, and intellectually superincumbent (Thanks Leo!). This plus a large coffee and I'm ready to enter the Shark Tank.
   23. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: February 17, 2012 at 11:09 AM (#4063274)
We have podcasts now, people. More hours of free audio content that you could plausibly listen to even if you were unemployed. There's no need anymore for EEI or FAN.


For sports, I like ESPN's NBA Today (but only if it's Ryen Russillo). I'll check out the BS report if there's an interesting guest, and I have enjoyed the Rich Eisen show despite not being a huge NFL fan.

Other than that, it's Doug Loves Movies, How Did This Get Made, Gabfest, and How Stuff Works.
   24. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4063285)
Slate's "Hang Up and Listen" is my favorite of the sports podcasts. Definitely recommend that.

I also follow This American Life, WTF, Paul F. Tompkast, and check in on Savage Lovecast and Comedy Bang Bang.

And, to be honest, I've really enjoyed several courses on iTunes U. David Blight's Civil War course from Yale I'd recommend to anyone, brilliant as academic work and as entertaining as any podcast you'll hear, and Paul Fry's Literary Theory is good if you're a humongous humanities nerd.
   25. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: February 17, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4063293)
I can't possibly recommend My Brother, My Brother, and Me highly enough. It's three brothers giving advice on everything from important relationship questions to how to turn yourself into a human peanut butter and jelly sandwich or how to pick a good warrior name for your cat. As you might imagine, it's goofy as hell.

They've put together a sampler of the sort of things they do. Great stuff.
   26. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 17, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4063312)
Podcasts!
Seconding the recs for This American Life, WTF, and Savage Lovecast.
Also: Radiolab, Snap Judgment, and a ton of good ones from the BBC (news, documentaries, science, and nature).
I've been listening to some talks given at SF's Exploratorium in about the mid-80's - interviews with oddball musicians like Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Trimpin, Phillip Glass, and Anthony Braxton. They've been re-releasing the audio as podcasts. People who enjoy this sort of thing will find this to be the sort of thing they will enjoy.
   27. Nasty Nate Posted: February 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM (#4063315)
post #7 is really interesting. thanks.
   28. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM (#4063324)
Podcasts!

PC Gamer (I prefer the UK version, but the US version is fun too)
Freakonomics
SModcast (Kevin Smith)
This American Life (I actually keep a backlog of episodes just for long trips..I'm about 20 months behind)
The Nerdist

I have about 75 minutes each day to listen to them (in transit or at lunch when I'm walking around), so I tend to go with ones that aren't daily (like some good sports ones). I don't want to hear about the game from 3 days ago because I didn't get around to the podcast until today...
   29. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4063345)
Podcasts!


It's like the internet for people who can't read!
   30. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM (#4063351)
Jesus, how annoying. Brock Hanke puts up an amazing post and you asshats follow it up with more about Mazzone's broadcasting job and podcasts! Are you kidding me?

We know that curveballs are hard on the elbow. It would be interesting to see if there is any relationship between type of pitch thrown and arm injuries.

Anyway, this seems to me a promising angle for research and I think Brock should pursue it. Keep us updated. Or actually, do the research in private and use it to get a job with a team.
   31. Biscuit_pants Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:21 PM (#4063352)
That makes sense; curves are hard on the arm.
I really liked your post something I actually always wanted to look into, but this part is actually not true. A curve ball done the right way is not bad on the arm at all, whereas a slider is jarring to the arm. A true curve is what Nolan Ryan or Kerry Wood (Wood hurt his arm with the slider) throw so well, sometimes referred to as a 12 to 6 curve. Most things called curves on TV are actually an off speed slider (or a slerve as I called it in college) that try's to combine the slider and curve motion, which is not good for the arm. A slider should be thrown about as hard as a fastball and have a large horizontal movement with a small vertical one.
   32. andrewberg Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM (#4063362)
Others, not mentioned: Adam Carolla, This Week with Larry Miller, Dave Dameshek Football Program (it's no Daves of Thunder, but it's good), Men in Blazers, SklarBro Country.
   33. andrewberg Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM (#4063368)
I really liked your post something I actually always wanted to look into, but this part is actually not true. A curve ball done the right way is not bad on the arm at all, whereas a slider is jarring to the arm. A true curve is what Nolan Ryan or Kerry Wood (Wood hurt his arm with the slider) throw so well, sometimes referred to as a 12 to 6 curve. Most things called curves on TV are actually an off speed slider (or a slerve as I called it in college) that try's to combine the slider and curve motion, which is not good for the arm. A slider should be thrown about as hard as a fastball and have a large horizontal movement with a small vertical one.


I have also always been under the impression that sliders were worse on the arm than curves. Of course, even if a perfectly thrown curve is not hard on the arm, that doesn't mean that most guys are doing it right.
   34. Squash Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:45 PM (#4063376)
#7 - agree. Mazzone was also all about the two-seam fastball and particularly about using it on the outside corner to either bring it back over the plate or run it away from the hitter (depending on whether the pitcher was RH or LH). He was even bigger on it than Duncan. All those Braves guys threw that pitch constantly. As you said, Mazzone's thing was about keeping the ball outside. Duncan's thing is about keeping it down.

In the late 80s/early 90s at least, Duncan was really big on the forkball/splitter as well. Mazzone's guys didn't throw a lot of those either. They're also seem as an injury risk because they freeze up the forearm, particularly the forkball because the grip is so deep. This COMPLETELY anecdotal, but it might be why Duncan is good with older "innings horse" kind of guys and squeezing a few good years out of them: they've become horses because they haven't had a ton injuries, perhaps they're less injury prone, so they can handle his pitching style.
   35. Blastin Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:48 PM (#4063379)
For me, Savage Love, How Did This Get Made, Pop Culture Happy Hour.

I've wondered about Mazzone. How can one really measure such a thing? We can measure his personality from comments but how much can we attribute to him and how much to Bobby? And would even Bobby have failed with those Orioles teams? I don't know who could have figured that (ongoing) mess out.
   36. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:48 PM (#4063380)
I was always under the impression that the "lead with the elbow" method of throwing a curve meant more stress on the elbow and forearm. Sliders are thrown with the same arm motion as fastballs, but chopping at the end of the pitch, right? Where does the slider stress the arm?
   37. Squash Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM (#4063382)
Both sliders and curves are bad if you throw them badly (there's a definitive statement). If you can throw a good one with a strong finger and wrist snap you can throw them with less of an injury wrist. It's the guys who can't do that and have to compensate by getting their elbow into it and wrenching that around who are in bigger trouble.
   38. Squash Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4063390)
I was always under the impression that the "lead with the elbow" method of throwing a curve meant more stress on the elbow and forearm. Sliders are thrown with the same arm motion as fastballs, but chopping at the end of the pitch, right? Where does the slider stress the arm?

The key to a good curve (and a less injury risking curve) is to throw it as far in front of your body as you can. Then you're more on top and your follow through is better. At least that's the way it worked for me. The big slider injury risk comes when rather than keeping your elbow relatively stable as you throw and "chopping it off" as you said (although you never really throw it like a fastball) and you wrench your elbow in the throwing of it. Try it - do a slider throwing motion where your elbow stays relatively locked and the inside of your arm just hicks/turns up just a little tiny bit when you snap your wrist. Now do one where you completely turn your arm over so the inside of your arm is pointing straight up. Now do that really hard, with your arm flying all the way across your body. It hurts.
   39. Squash Posted: February 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4063395)
And to add, the problem with the slider is when you start getting tired you don't keep your elbow locked as well, it starts flying open, and everything in there starts getting yanked.
   40. Tricky Dick Posted: February 17, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4063487)
Some minor league development programs discourage young pitchers from throwing the slider--encouraging the curve ball instead--during the early stages of a young pitcher's professional career. The thinking is that the curve is easier on the young pitcher's arm and can be supplemented with the slider in later minor league levels.

As I recall, the Mazzone method called for the ability to throw a strike on the outside corner at any time (and practicing until able to do so), using the fastball to set up the breaking pitch, more throwing between starts and more running than normal. I think it's interesting that both Mazzone and Dave Duncan had the reputation of working better with veterans than young pitchers. Both pitching coaches seemed to separate themselves from other pitching coaches by consistently getting better than expected performance from mediocre journeyman pitchers.
   41. Something Other Posted: February 18, 2012 at 08:22 AM (#4063931)
I can't possibly recommend My Brother, My Brother, and Me highly enough.
Uh, no. The opening is torture, so I jumped ahead at random only to be treated to some moron babbling about his rectal wall.

No, thanks.

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