2008 Reds / Reds - General

Dusty Baker and pitcher abuse

Very interesting post here by Nate Silver over at the Baseball Prospectus blog. It was mentioned earlier in the comments, but I wanted to link it so you guys could go check it out. It really delves into the numbers and looks at how much blame (or how little) Dusty Baker deserves for his reputation as a pitcher-abuser. Here’s Silver’s intro:

Yesterday I was on MLB Radio with guest hosts Will Carroll and Joe Sheehan and they asked me what I thought Dusty Baker’s hiring in Cincinnati would mean for young pitchers like Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto. My first instinct — and what I said on the air — is that this was something of a red herring. I talked a few times with senior people in the Cubs organization in 2003 and 2004 while Dusty was managing the club, and my perception was that they were very much on board with how he was handling his pitching staff. And it probably ought to be that way, because if Dusty was doing something that they were unhappy with, the team’s executives were not doing their job — Dusty should either have gotten a tersely-worded memo or, as a last resort, he should have been fired. I also cited the counterexample of Terry Francona, who went from being a first-class abuser of pitchers in Philadelphia to a model citizen in Boston.

Basically, Silver began to look into the numbers to determine if high pitch counts have been driven by managerial philosophy or team philosophy.

Silver’s conclusion?

So empirically, most of the responsibility for pitcher usage does fall on the shoulders of the manager — which means that now might be a good time to trade Homer Bailey in a fantasy league. The moral responsibility, however, might be another matter. It is organizations, after all, who are responsible for hiring their managers. And when you hire a manager like Dusty Baker, one of two things ought to be true: either you’ve considered his philosophy on pitch counts and signed off on it, or you’ve given him the Birds, Bees and Labrums lecture and expect him to change his ways. If the careers of Bailey and Cueto are ruined by high pitch counts, it will be Dusty who pulled the trigger — but the Reds who hired the assassin.

As we’ve said before, none of this is encouraging.

15 thoughts on “Dusty Baker and pitcher abuse

  1. Awesome Joe…. he wins. Great. He arrived in San Fran and was gift wrapped one of the best players ever. He gets to the WS and is let go that offseason. He then gets to Chicago and is handed three great young pitchers. Prior and Wood have done what since the end of Bakers first season? And Zambrano has seen a decline in his ERA and control each and every year since Baker got there….

    Coincidence? Sure, it could all be. Given the evidence though, I sure don’t want to be in the Cubs situation when he left in 3 years when he leaves Cincinnati, because we can’t go out and spend 300 million dollars in the offseason.

  2. Joe: “He won with the Cubs.”

    Facts: 322-326 .497

    If you’re keeping a running score, it’s Facts 787, Joe 0.

  3. I think too much emphasis is being put on the managers role. It’s not like he doesn’t have a pitching coach to influence in-game decision making and a whole baseball operations staff to shape strategy.

  4. The pitching coach works for the manager, the manager makes the final game decisions. If you can make a case that Baker doesn’t have a pattern of pitcher abuse, make that case, but it appears that he’s had the same pattern no matter who his pitching coach has been.

  5. Chris, you are right…. the pitching coach should ahve some say as well. Listening to 1360 ESPN Radio all day though I have heard Dick Pole say this several times today and it makes me feel about 0% better ‘I think pitchers only have so many good pitches in their arms’. That to me says that he has very little understanding of how to protect arms. I may be misunderstanding what he was trying to illustrate, but it doesn’t sound like it.

  6. I live in Chicago and unfortunately a lot of my friends are Cubs fans. They are all gloating right now, as you might guess. I have had more than one person tell me that they suspect that much of Dusty’s injury-prone pitching staff (esp. Prior) was chemically-enhanced, increasing the injuries or allowing guys to pitch beyond their capabilities to heal. If true, there may be a glimmer of hope that it wasn’t all his fault. Or, is that a worse indictment of Dusty? He loves the juicers.

  7. Again I have to ask, why do we care what Cub fans think? It’s not like they have a clear understanding of what winning baseball should look like.

    As far as Baker’s record in Chicago, he took the Cubs as far (or almost as far) as they have been since 1908 and were one fan interference away from the World Series.

    I don’t care about the Cubs’ record in 2006. Torre, LaRussa, Girardi or any of the other Redleg Nation favorites wouldn’t have won a single game more with that roster and in that situation.

    Here are some other facts:

    LaRussa lost big in 2007, for a lot of the same reasons Baker lost big in 2006.

    Girardi has one season as a manager, and that one season he had a losing record.

    Torre has had the advantage of 1.2 BILLION dollars being spent on his roster over the last 7 seasons and hasn’t won a thing that matters to Yankee fans.

    I get the feeling that I am older than most of y’all around here. I was still in Little League, but I remember the Big Red Machine and the ’75 and ’76 seasons. I’ve lived in Tampa for over 20 years, but I grew up in Southern WV and used to listen to Marty and Joe 160 games a year and caught the other 2 televised games on our rabbit-eared TV.

    I have had DirecTV for years for the SOLE reason to watch the Reds play as much as possible. I travel somewhere, usually Atlanta or Miami, a couple of times a year to watch the Reds play during the regular season and go to a dozen or so spring training games every March.

    From that perspective, it’s MY OPINION that this is the best Reds managerial hire since Vern Rapp was fired.

    I wish the Reds fan base would give Baker a chance to screw up before they decided he sucks.

  8. amen, steve. reds fans spend the year berating the stupidity of cubs fans, and then the time comes when there is a cubs connection and what the cubs fans say matters?

    ignored by all of the antibaker reds fans is the fact that reds management has a proven track record when it comes to managing their young arms. why do people suddenly think that is going to change?

  9. What track record? They’ve been in place for 2 years, and they’ve had exactly one young starting pitchers appear in any substantial games: Homer Bailey, who promptly got hurt. It’s not an arm injury, but I’d hardly say that Wayne Krivsky has some sort of iron-clad credentials in this regard.

  10. I don’t know where all this “what do Cubs fans know” stuff comes from. It’s a cheap ad hominim attack, and doesn’t get us any closer to the real question, which is whether the criticism against Baker are valid.

    And it didn’t take a Cub fan to watch Cub games and see what Baker was up to during that time. I really don’t think anyone (at least anyone here) is critical of the Baker hiring simply because some Cub fan said so.

  11. I read this earlier, he doesn’t mention Baker’s serial pitcher abuse in SF and only mentions one young player that he played..not much of a case in his behalf, IMO.

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