Is Dusty to blame for Prior, Wood being on DL again?
Posted: Friday April 7, 2006 11:51AM; Updated: Friday April 7, 2006 12:12PM
Kerry Wood has been criticized for poor mechanics.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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We begin the first 2006 regular-season E-bag with a plaintive wail -- is there any other kind? -- from the Great Northwest, made extra plaintive because it concerns the sad current state of Chicago's Cubs.
(We'll get to an inbox filled with Barry Bonds comments next week. A man can take only so much.)
What's the deal with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood? Are their problems because Dusty Baker overused them or because of bad mechanics? It seems like a shame to see such potential unrealized. -- Gene Jones, Vancouver, Wash.
Yeah, it's a shame all right, Gene. And just think how the North Siders in Chicago feel.
Lots of people have criticized Wood's mechanics over the years. Former Cy Young winner and Cubs analyst Steve Stone ripped into the pitcher last season for being more of a thrower than a pitcher. Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins echoed Stone's comments.
In Prior's case, the criticism hasn't been as much about mechanics as it has been a perceived problem with his preparation and his use. And remember, injuries are sometimes much more straightforward than the way a pitcher throws or how he's used. Prior, for example, took a line drive off his elbow last year. It's hard to blame anyone for that.
Still, nothing is more a hot-button baseball topic in the Windy City when it comes to Prior and Wood than the charges of overuse that are leveled at Baker.
Is Baker burning out Prior and Wood? The Bill James Handbook tracks how managers use their pitchers. Last year Bob Melvin (Diamondbacks), Felipe Alou (Giants), Clint Hurdle (Rockies) and Frank Robinson (Nationals) were the only National League skippers who had more instances of what James calls a "slow hook." (The calculation for this is ... well, it's a little complicated. The book explains it.) Baker was way down in the bottom half of the league with "quick hooks," too, painting a picture of a manager who lets his starters pitch far into games. Maybe too far.
That's further illustrated by "long outings" of more than 120 pitches. Only Robinson let his pitchers do that more often than Baker did last year. The Nationals had 16 "long outings," the Cubs 10. (Of the 10 long outings that Baker allowed in '05, five were from Prior. Wood didn't have any.)
Over the course of his career, no current NL manager allows more "long outings" than Baker. On average, Baker's pitchers put in 16 long outings a season.
Take all that for what it's worth. But Baker's critics, loudly and clearly, think he's using these guys too much.
All right. I'm stopping now before I start talking about PECOTA or something.
Uh-uh. No way you can put all the blame on the players for the steroid problem in baseball. Teams encouraged the players to use them. Why do you think so many players spent time playing winter ball in countries where steroids are legal? Wait, I'm sorry, you're a reporter so you never even looked into that, did you? Yes, the players messed up and shouldn't be forgiven. But are we going to ignore the massive problems the owners and teams created and just blame the players? You could've broken this story 10 years ago if you wanted but you turned a blind eye. It's too late to blame the players just because a proud black man is going to pass Ruth. -- Ian, Wayne, Pa.
Ian, you're closer to agreeing with me than you realize (though I have to point out that I never put "all the blame" on the players).