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.
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.