leo mazzone braves phone

Leo Mazzone calls Strasburg shutdown “pathetic,” forgets what happened to Steve Avery


I’ve mentioned several times that I don’t like the impending Stephen Strasburg shutdown. I think that the Nationals, especially after they realized they had a playoff contender on their hands, needed to manage his workload in such a way that he could pitch into the postseason.

That said, one cannot be blind to pitcher injuries and workload in making the pitch Strasburg case. And one guy who appears to be really, really blind to it is former Braves and Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

Mazzone was on the radio in San Francisco yesterday, and he told a story about how back in the Braves glory years, his young pitchers used to carry a big load.  Like Steve Avery for instance:

Let me tell you something we had pitchers when they were young in 1991 okay…Steve Avery and John Smoltz and Pete Smith and Tom Glavine were all kids. They took us to the 7th game of the World Series and they all had great careers ... I remember in 1993 when we trying to catch the Giants and we were out in San Francisco and we were 7 and half games out or 8…whatever it was in late July. We are trying to catch him and Steve Avery who was 22 years old at the time already was an MVP of the NLCS and said, ‘Leo we got them now.’ I said, ‘Oh I am glad you said we got them now. Last I looked we were about 7 or 8 out.’  He said, ‘No. John Burkett and Bill Swift are talking about how they pitched 150 innings and they might be getting a little tired. We don’t get going until we got to 150.’ ”

Steve Avery pitched 223 innings that year, which was his age 23 season. The year before he pitched 233. When he was 21 he pitched 210. In the minors and majors in the two years before that he pitched 170 or so each season. On top of that, as Mazzone noted, he pitched a lot in the postseason: 29 innings in 1991, 20 innings in 1992 and 13 in 1993.

And at the end of that 1993 season he got injured and was never truly healthy or durable again.

I don’t think Strasburg is on the Steve Avery path. The Nationals have been careful with him and, even if you disagree with the strategy they’re employing now, they are trying to continue to be careful with him.  But man, if you’re going to go after what they’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be bringing up Steve freakin’ Avery as your go-to example.

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
1 Comment

Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.