Interesting Question: Alou Abuse, Part Deux

Not All Coaches Believe Pitchers Are So Fragile

I came across a very interesting interview/biography of Leo Mazzone done by ESPN that was linked to on a blog I frequent: Dan Agonistes (he writes for The Hardball Times, another site I visit regularly).

Since I compared Alou with how Cox uses relievers often and Mazzone used to be the pitching coach for Atlanta, I found these quotes interesting from Tom Glavine on Mazzone's technique:
Glavine - [Mazzone] was very ambitious and gung-ho. He was going to get the starting pitchers to throw twice between starts instead of one time, and to try
to get the relievers to throw off the mound more often, even though they might
pitch in a game that night. The biggest shock was that, here we were, doing what
we've done for so many years, and all of a sudden it's, hey, we're going to throw even more than we do now. I remember it being a very foreign way of thinking.
Glavine - You get guys to throw as much as they want to, so they can develop feel on their pitches and understanding of their mechanics. In terms of getting guys to throw more often, I think a lot of people don't want to do that simply because they are scared to death somebody's going to get hurt. Coaches are going to err on the side of caution and not encourage guys to throw as much as Leo does.
That was part of the philosophy that Johnny Sain passed on to Mazzone when Sain was nearing the end of his coaching career and Mazzone was starting his.

Mazzone - The throwing program is based on common sense. I don't think it's that big a deal, but you'd be amazed how people can't understand. Somebody told me one time that you can't do that because pitchers would break down late in the year. I asked him what he did. And he said that his pitchers played catch in the outfield. And I said, "Well, explain the difference between playing catch in the outfield and playing catch on a mound when you're only 60 feet, six inches from your target." He said, "Well, they had a tendency to throw too hard." I told him, "That's what the hell they pay you for, to regulate the effort."

Not that Alou does all this - I have no idea whether he does or doesn't or if Righetti does or doesn't, since it sounds like Alou delegates the duty of handling the pitchers to Righetti - but I thought I should bring this up to show that not all successful coaches believe that babying pitchers is the best way to keep pitchers productive, that there are other perspectives on how to handle pitchers.

I personally think the pendulum has swung too far the other way and that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I'm hoping for the first brave soul who will go out and have a four man starting rotation again, especially with all these 5th starters who are not very good at all. That would also open a spot up for another reliever or bench position player.

Why Join the Giants If Felipe Is So Bad?

There are also some things to note about this reputation Alou has with Giants fans for abusing relievers that I have not figured out. For one thing, if Alou abuses relievers, why would Hermanson and Fassero return to pitch under Alou? They needed to resurrect their careers, not bury it, why come here? Or even Christiansen, who pitched one season for Alou and in his free agency, after another bad year with us, decided that SF was the best place to be? Plus this year Worrell came back for more "abuse" - why would any pitcher in their right mind put up with abuse that could ruin their career? They were free agents, they had more options than re-chosing Alou as their manager but they chose to be with Alou again.

And if Alou was that bad, why would other free agent relievers come here, like Tyler Walker and Armando Benitez? If his abuse is so bad that fans can see this, why hasn't this bad reputation spread through the league and discourage relievers from signing with us? Like any organization, there are grapevines in baseball and a bad rep should pass pretty quickly if he is as bad as some Giants fans are making Felipe out to be. And yet it hasn't stopped pitchers from joining or rejoining Felipe on the Giants.

All in all, I understand why some fans question Alou's handling of the pitchers but given all that I've presented, I don't see why it sticks. I won't say he is perfect - he could have handled the Schmidt non-start in the playoffs much better, he shouldn't have throw Brower out there to face Finley when he had nothing, I wouldn't have skipped Jerome Williams start after a good first start early in 2005 - but I don't find myself very perturbed about how he or Righetti handle the pitchers.

Why Do Some Fans Still Cling to Baker Still?

I especially find it odd for the people who still wishes Dusty Baker was still here over Alou. I was not happy with how Dusty handled the pitchers. From not starting Rueter when he had the chances to do so in the playoffs to taking out Ortiz in Game 6 to starting Ryan Jensen over Kurt Ainsworth, there was a lot that I was not happy about how he handled the pitching, let alone the position players. I'm happy he's gone.

In addition, from Bill James Handbook, the stats show that Baker is hard on pitchers too. Baker has some of the highest Long Outings among managers of the past 10 years. Alou's high with the Giants (13 in 2004) was surpassed by Baker in 6 of the past 10 seasons, with one tie, meaning that Baker had less than 13 only three seasons - and in two of the three, he had 10, which would have (and did) ranked 2nd worse by a large margin in 2005. He has seasonal highs of 27, 26, 25, basically double Alou's worse with the Giants. Alou had 8, 13, and 7 LO.

And Baker used relievers as much as Alou. His average since 1994 is 434 relief appearances while Alou's since 1994 is 451. And Baker has as quick with the hook as Alou the past three seasons, as he had 101 quick hooks while Alou had 102. Baker had more slow hooks, with 142 slow hooks while Alou had 126 the past three seasons, so he was leaving his starters in longer relative to other managers.

Stats or no stats, I've been happy with Felipe Alou as the Giants manager, though not necessarily with the results, but I don't blame him for the injuries and the failure to produce, for the most part, that has hurt the Giants chances to win the division or get into the playoffs. I think he has done about the best he could with what he was given to work with. As I've noted in other posts, management/ownership has failed to give Sabean enough money to get Alou the talent he needs given the budget situation skewness that Bonds places on the budget. Plus they should have planned for some overspending during Bonds' final contract years to sign a primo free agent who would both be his successor and backup offensive force should he fall to age or injury.


Anonymous SF4As said...

Hmmm, you have a lot of insightful things to say, so I don't understand why no one comments. I guess it must be offseason and Giants fans are discouraged. ;-)

Though I live in S.F. and was big on the Giants in the years leading up to the loss to the Angels in 2002, I ended up shifting my attention to the A's for the last 2 or 3 years. Especially last year, with Bonds out of the picture, it just didn't seem like the Giants jelled as a team. Steroids sure took their toll.

Would I love to have the Giants killing the competition? Sure. But I just don't see what strategy the front office is following to get there. At least with Beane one kind of understands the thinking, whether one agrees with it or not.

Just my 2 cents worth. Keep up your writing. I'm enjoying it.

Mon Jan 09, 10:51:00 PM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Thanks for the comment and the compliment, SF4As.

I'm doing this just to see what happens. From checking others sites, some sites just get all sorts of commenters and some get none at all. I'm hoping it's because I make a lot of sense and am right :^) but I'm guessing that because of my "biased" label, people might feel that I won't change my mind, so why bother.

That's kind of what happened in the one extended comment discussion that did happen here, I did not change my mind on that one, but I am open to changing my mind on things, I just need a good argument and/or explanation to get me there and that person didn't do it. But that's OK too, I don't see why a difference in opinion cannot exist, that's just life.

I would not blame 2005's failures on steroids. Bonds' problems with his surgery and the subsequent infection had nothing to do with steroid usage, from what I understand about what steroid's effects on the human body is.

The main problem is that the offense fell apart without Bonds the first part of the season - not sure if that was related or what. The new guys were hitting but the old guys were not, after a while - Alfonzo, Grissom, Tucker. They were a huge part of the offense and they were doing nothing. Plus Vizquel and Feliz had a horrible second half and Matheny fell back to the mean. Plus Alou was having injury problems.

Perhaps it's like you put it, they didn't jell because of Bonds. Not because he is such a leader or that his presence in the lineup affected them (which it should). But rather because they were waiting for him to come and save them and they were all holding back in some way mentally because they sort of mentally relaxed because Bonds was out but then the temporary thing became a season long thing and they couldn't get themselves out of their funk.

Here's the strategy as I see it: draft pitchers because they are a great commodity to trade (everyone always need pitching), because they need to trade to keep the Bonds choo-choo train fire going towards the pennant. They started drafting position players recently to get a crop of position players maturing right when Bonds retire and give the Giants a new face.

Plus when Bonds finally retire, there will be a $25M hole in the budget (him and other FAs) that Sabean could fill with the next new star because the Giants cannot afford to return to the Candlestick days of 300 people showing up for a game, they have too much invested to afford a season like that, at least not until the bond is almost paid, like after 2015. So it will always be a continuous adjusting to the marketplace to get the right pieces in place to win. One name coming up is Derek Lee, hopefully they step up to the plate and sign him, especially since he might take less to be near home again.

I think they are following the Braves draft strategy to some extent with the focus on players who are local to the area (Foppert, Schierholtz, Frandsen). Reading through a discussion of Mazzone's philosophy plus what I knew about Atlanta's draft strategy, I realized that the advantage there is two-fold. One is that local kids might give you the home discount. The second is that if you are any good at your job of evaluating talent, you can easily go to see most if not all the star players in all the schools in your area and this knowledge will greatly inform your draft decision making.

What I wish they would do is focus on high school players as well, like the Braves do. I was trying to figure out the difference between the two team's draft strategy that enables them to develop good position players whereas the Giants don't. The difference is that they draft high school players. And that makes total sense to me once I thought hard on it.

When you win all the time you get crappy draft picks. If you want to pick the good players, you need a high pick but you don't get a high pick unless you lose. And as my study suggests, after the first 5-10 picks, it is pretty low odds of picking up even a useful player, let alone a star player. So what do you do?

You draft high school players. College separates the wheat from the chaff but when it does that, the players are now too well known and scouted over to last to your pick when you regularly get into the playoffs. So you need to pick high school players with later picks and hope to get the player to join you before they develop into a star.

The Giants do follow this to some extent. Williams, Cain, and Whitaker were H.S. pitchers when they were drafted. Ishikawa and Luster were H.S position players taken late but paid a high bonus to join the Giants rather than go to college. Torcato was a H.S. star. But it is my impression that the Braves do this more extensively, that they don't really draft that many players who are not high school or not local.

Tue Jan 10, 02:19:00 AM PST  
Anonymous SF4A's said...

Whew. Quite a posting for 2 in the morning!

My steroids comment wasn't so much directed at Bonds specifically as at the team and at all teams, for that matter. It just seems like 2005's performance was down from the previous few years and injury rates were up. But that is just my subjective impression, and it is perhaps glib of me to blame it on players stopping steroids.

I think your comments regarding drafting strategy are insightful. Good drafts seem to be something that the A's are on top of. Maybe the Giants should emulate them (and the Braves) more.

Tue Jan 10, 10:30:00 AM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

What can I say, I'm a Fanatic! :^D

Sorry I misunderstood your point about steroids. I agree with you that there appeared to be a reduced performance as well as heightened injury rates. I too wonder how much of that is due to the stoppage in the use of steroids; I think that is a fair question for us to ask, the players asked for this by allowing their union to not do something about this for so many years, they should have done something a decade ago. There were a number of players over the past couple of years who were suspected users who suddenly "decided" to come into spring training with much less weight than they had before.

Yes, the A's and Brave's appear to be good model's to emulate, just not both at the same time as they are polar opposites in that the A's focus on college players to get potentially quicker payback whereas the Braves focus on high school players to get potentially higher payback.

Tue Jan 10, 01:15:00 PM PST  

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