Fanhouse has published a story about Dusty Baker and the possible abuse of pitching arms. Guilty or misconstrued? You decide and discuss…

17 Responses

  1. Greg Dafler

    I’ll need to dig up what I wrote about Baker when he first came to Cincinnati. It was interesting to see how his pitchers were handled under different GM’s. Those first years in San Francisco (when pitches per start was less than league average) was under Bob Quinn. After Brian Sabaen became GM, pitches/start spiked. They stayed high in Chicago, and I think they’ve been reasonable here under Krivsky/Jocketty.

    P/GS is sometimes a misleading stat for single seasons. It’s been a little higher in 2008-09 than 2006 with the Cubs because he had so many poor pitching performances that season, he was going to the bullpen a lot earlier.

    What I find striking is how much League PAP(Pitching Abuse Points) has dropped since 1993. I would argue that the league has gotten too conservative.

    • Bill Lack

      Greg Dafler: I’ll need to dig up what I wrote about Baker when he first came to Cincinnati.It was interesting to see how his pitchers were handled under different GM’s.Those first years in San Francisco (when pitches per start was less than league average) was under Bob Quinn.After Brian Sabaen became GM, pitches/start spiked.They stayed high in Chicago, and I think they’ve been reasonable here under Krivsky/Jocketty.P/GS is sometimes a misleading stat for single seasons.It’s been a little higher in 2008-09 than 2006 with the Cubs because he had so many poor pitching performances that season, he was going to the bullpen a lot earlier.What I find striking is how much League PAP(Pitching Abuse Points) has dropped since 1993.I would argue that the league has gotten too conservative.

      Maybe it is too conservative, but when you have pitchers on multi-year guaranteed contracts worth millions and millions of dollars, IMO, too conservative is justified.

      • Bill Lack

        Bill Lack: Maybe it is too conservative, but when you have pitchers on multi-year guaranteed contracts worth millions and millions of dollars, IMO, too conservative is justified.

        And I don’t believe you can be “too conservative”. 😆

  2. Travis G.

    The writer got some great quotes from Baker in this piece. You can tell he badgered him a little bit, which a beat writer would be less likely to do.

    Baker’s reputation as a pitcher abuser is well-deserved but misunderstood. I don’t think he’s riding guys too hard just to win games; he’s doing it because he’s old school, and because he’s listening to and trusting his pitchers. It’s kind of hard to fault him for that, but I do hope Price is a good influence on him.

  3. Steve Price

    I think it’s because he played for the Dodgers in the 1970s when the Dodgers played in a no-offense era in a no-offense park with a wider strike zone, not to mention a good experienced pitching staff. Alston and Lasorda rode those guys and pitched them deep into games. They could pitch to the strike zone (manly talk: challenge the hitters) without too much worry about the ball leaving the park…and the Dodgers typically went straight from starting pitcher to their closers (two inning closers were the rule at the time).

    Relief pitchers appearances below…in order of appearances

    1976: Charlie Hough 77, Stan Wall 31, Mike Marshall 30
    1977: Charlie Hough 70, Mike Garman 49, Elias Sosa 44
    1978: Charlie Hough 55, Terry Forster 47, Lance Rautzhan 43
    1979: Charlie Hough 42 (14 starts), Dave Patterson 36, Ken Brett 30

    Frankly, I’m amazed Dusty wants a 12 man bullpen and uses them so much.

    And…no matter what he says, he was riding the hot hand at season’s end. He was paid to win in Cincinnati…there’s not a shadow of doubt in my mind he was seeking Ws for a team that didn’t have many.

  4. RiverCity Redleg

    I can’t fault him for wanting to win, especially when it would be so easy to pack it in. However, meaningless wins at the expense of long term success doesn’t make any sense. The two arguments you can make on Dusty’s behalf is 1) Those games are not completely meaningless. Ending on a high note makes the fans and players feel better about the season and goes a long way towards building excitement for the following year. And B) There is no conclusive evidence that his decisions have any (or substantially any) affect on the long term success and/or health of any pitcher.

    With that said, I would still rather him more safe than sorry in those situation. The best solution is to just be in more meaningful games down the stretch of the season. That would be a win/win!

  5. Steve Price

    It’s not too hard to find the pattern here. As Greg mentions above, Dusty didn’t over pitch his first few years, and he uses those pitchers as his examples (Bill
    Swift and John Burkett).

    The problem is, they aren’t part of the equation. They weren’t young pitchers. Swift was 31 and Burkett was 28 when Baker joined the Giants in 1993.

    Well, may be Swift is a good example anyway…for the Verducci Effect. In 1992, Swift threw 164 innings; Dusty arrives in 1993, Swift is great, wins 21 and throw 232 innings. Then he’s hurt: 109, 105, 18, 65, and then 144 with a 5.85 ERA. (1994 was the sgtrike year–the 109 year–but team leader Burkett threw 159 and Swift was better).

    Ortiz may have been a victim of Verducci, too. Went from 88 to 207 innings with a 3.81 ERA, to 195 innings with a 5.01 ERA…then he became consistent.

    Then he gets to the Cubs and the pitcher abuse points go through the roof.

    Interesting quote from Kerry Woods though…while defending Baker, he made the comment that Woods’ “mindset” was that he was going eight or nine innigs each outing so he didn’t consider his arm abused.

    Who would he have gotten that mindset from? (see my early Dodger info further up this page).

    Now, for those of us who grew up during this time, and we wonder what happened to going nine? Gotta remember, it’s a different game now. I don’t even mean coddling the pitchers, which they should do considering the millions involved, but in how the game is played.

    The strike zone is narrower, the parks are smaller, pitchers are expected to go all out the entire game, rather than “pacing” themselves so as to save some gas for the end. K rates are WAY up, for this same reason…pitchers throw harder and work for the K more. Even Bob Feller, known to throw 100 mph, only averaged 6-7 strike outs per game, about 50% less than our best fast ball pitchers do today.

    • GregD

      Steve Price: Interesting quote from Kerry Woods though…while defending Baker, he made the comment that Woods’ “mindset” was that he was going eight or nine innigs each outing so he didn’t consider his arm abused.

      If I recall correctly, the Cubs (players, coaches, fans) were scared to death to go to the bullpen. Wood and company had to pitch 8 or 9 innings because they didn’t have anyone reliable to hand the ball to. If they didn’t go 8 innings, there was a good chance of losing the game.

      As to your comments on the Verducci effect on Giants players, I’ll have to dig up my old comment…because I looked at every Giants pitcher during Baker’s tenure. I didn’t look at total inning counts, but pitch counts for each game of each season. Ortiz, Hernandez, etc all had ERA’s that jumped up and down, and you could see how their counts were up in a year in which they threw a lot of pitches per game, but then the next year their ERA would be up over 5.00 or they’d miss time with injury.

  6. Beroader

    About time for me to be hitting the ol’ dusty trail.

    I like your hat.

    Can’t get out that way.

    Found the emergency exit.

  7. Sultan of Swaff

    I agree with Steve, this speaks more to the Verducci effect—which makes this sort of young pitcher abuse an organizational failure. It was abundantly clear the Cubs brass were desperate to win in ’03, and you can’t blame them.
    As for Homer and Cueto, both weren’t handled the best, but I don’t think there will be any negative carryover

  8. Furniture City Red

    I for one think the ‘Verducci Effect’ is way over-rated, and may well be total BS…But it does get everybody talking about Tom Verducci every February. You think…just maybe…that’s why he does it? 🙄

  9. TC

    This is not new, nor is it the first time I’ve posted about it. It’s rehashing the same discussions for the past 2 years since Dusty was hired. But here I go standing in front of the bus once again. I expect this will be a popular post to rail against. That’s okay, just be fair.

    Some qualifications first: It was Cubs fans that started this whole belief, and I have yet to ever meet an educated Cubs fan. I AM NOT a Dusty apologist, nor am I not sure he doesn’t deserve some blame, but I think it is unfair to blame him everytime a pitcher gets a sore arm and I definitely think stories by the national baseball media only hurts the Reds.

    Every manager on every team in every year has pitchers go on the DL. This is not to say Dusty hasn’t helped his notoriety. If you think he writes his lineups in crayon, then I’m in agreement. If you think he has had something to do with the past two years of Harang, I’m in agreement. But from the beginning people have jumped on the hate Dusty bandwagon without any real reason. Most of the critisms are IMO knee jerk without any substance or blow hards who think they sound smarter when blasting something. (The irony of that last statement is not lost on me.) But if you want to see that, hop on over to John Fay’s blog and read the posts there.

    I hear the clowns in my office who know only what they hear about the Reds standing around spewing stuff like this. I’d love to see Dusty gone after (if not before) this year. I’m not sure if I agree with the reputation. And I’m just not going to blame Dusty for everything.

    • TC

      I finally had an opportunity to read the Fanhouse article. I have to retract something:

      TC: … and I definitely think stories by the national baseball media only hurts the Reds.

      Now that I’ve read it, I think they did a great job.

  10. wanderinredsfan

    I blame Dusty for the mis-use of Harang, Volquez, Cueto, and Bailey over the past two seasons. I fear for all of their arms, but am hopeful that Price’s hiring will bring clarity to all future pitching decisions.

    The problem is beyond just ‘pitches per game’ or ‘the Verducci effect’, both valid arguments against Dusty, but it’s the numerous occassions when Dusty let his young pitchers struggle through extremely long innings. There were numerous occassions when Dusty let the young guys struggle through a 30+ pitch inning, even late into a lost season. This just doesn’t make sense, and it’s the absolute worst way to handle a young pitcher’s development.

    • pinson343

      wanderinredsfan: The problem is beyond just ‘pitches per game’ or ‘the Verducci effect’, both valid arguments against Dusty, but it’s the numerous occassions when Dusty let his young pitchers struggle through extremely long innings.There were numerous occassions when Dusty let the young guys struggle through a 30+ pitch inning, even late into a lost season.This just doesn’t make sense, and it’s the absolute worst way to handle a young pitcher’s development.

      This is an excellent point. I’ve heard ML pitchers (and pitching coaches) say that pitch count for a game has to be taken in the context of how the pitches are spread across innings. In particular, that a 30+ pitch inning is very stressful, much more so than two 15 pitch innings.

  11. hoosierdad

    @wanderinredsfan: Good to hear from you again! Couldn’t agree more with your post. I’m hoping for big things out of Price.

  12. wanderinredsfan

    Some glaring stats from the ‘Dusty Trail’ to frighten you right off your horse:

    Homer Bailey: In 2009, 5 different occassions when Dusty allowed him to throw more than 30 pitches in an inning. Two of these occassions occurred in late September. In 2008, Dusty allowed him to throw a 30+ pitch inning 3 times, however Homer only pitched in 8 games that season.

    Edinson Volquez: In 2009, three different occassions of 30+ pitch-innings, however he only had 9 starts before his arm blew-up. One of these starts (April 24) he was allowed to throw 40 pitches in one inning. In 2008, Volquez had 6 different occassions of pitching more than 30 pitches per inning. One of those was a 45 pitch inning……on August 23, at the end of a dismal season.

    Johnny Cueto: Probably the most worrisome of the three. In 2009, Cueto threw 30+ pitches a inning on 9 different occassions. Two of these innings occurred during the same game……his last start of the season. On two separate occassions he threw 40+ pitches in an inning; 40 on July 11, and 49 on July 6. In 2008, Cueto threw 30+ pitches an inning on 8 different occassions. Basically, Dusty allows Cueto to throw a 30+ pitch inning nearly 30% of his starts.

    This is a crude analysis of lack of Dusty’s lack of fore-thought. Dusty has a win-now, at all costs, attitude that is probably hampering this franchise, long-term (inevitable injuries to come) and short-term (e.g., Volquez’s blown elbow). Of course, we cannot prove that Dusty destroys arms, but we shouldn’t ignore the data that support such a claim. I sure hope Walt and Price are cognizant of the ‘Dusty Trail’.