Interesting Question: Alou Abuse, Part Deux
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.