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    Baseball Told the Right Way
    In-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!

      Building a house out of three 2 X 4's and a bunch of straw......
    I was thinking a little more about what I wrote yesterday about the Braves. They have consistently outperformed their pythag, and one of the reasons that came to me was the strong bullpens they assemble year after year. Having a good bullpen will especially help in the close games, and help a team outperform their runs scored/runs allowed record.

    The Braves have always had a good bullpen, but their pitching staffs, in general, have been great. They've been anchored by All-stars and Hall of Famers, but they've also got plenty of great performances out of average and obscure pitchers.

    Take a look at the following chart. I took any Braves pitcher who pitched for significant time under the Cox & Mazzone reign. I set the cut-off at more than one season, and around 100 IP for relievers and 300 IP for starters. I then got rid of any pitchers who haven't had significant time in any other organization, (Millwood, Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux) and found out everybody else's ERAs with the Braves and without the braves. The last column is the percentage improvement under Cox and Mazzone (121 means 21% better, 87 means 13% worse). The results are staggering.
          Products of the Braves Farm System:
    Played w/ Braves Elsewhere
    IP ERA IP ERA %Impr.
    Mark Wohlers 386.3 3.73 167.0 4.53 121
    Bruce Chen 111.0 4.14 342.3 4.73 114
    Brad Clontz 197.7 4.51 80.0 3.94 87
    John Rocker 195.3 2.63 60.0 6.00 228
    Greg McMichael 334.3 2.69 189.0 4.24 157
    Mike Stanton 258.7 3.86 610.3 3.79 98
    Kent Mercker 480.0 3.36 688.7 4.90 146
    Pedro Borbon 71.0 2.69 189.0 5.13 150

    Came to Braves in their Prime:
    IP ERA IP ERA %Impr.
    Pete Smith 217.7 3.68 808.0 4.78 130
    Denny Neagle 482.3 3.43 1408.0 4.52 132
    Marvin Freeman 136.0 3.64 457.7 4.94 136
    Rudy Seanez 122.7 3.30 164.6 5.47 166
    Mike Remlinger 299.3 2.65 481.0 4.49 170

    Came to Braves at the end of their career
    or out of Obscurity:

    IP ERA IP ERA %Impr.
    Mike Bielecki 242.0 3.09 989.0 4.45 144
    John Burkett 353.7 3.74 2294.7 4.40 118
    Terry Mullholand 217.0 4.52 2173.3 4.35 96
    Steve Bedrosian 123.7 3.27 1067.3 3.39 104
    Charlie Leibrandt 585.0 3.35 1723.0 3.83 114

    Grand Total: 4813.7 3.45 13893.0 4.34 126
    That chart is amazing to me. I went into this intentionally trying to find some examples of pitchers who have performed WORSE under Cox and Mazzone. I really couldn't do it. I separated out the pitchers in their prime because I assumed that these guys would naturally perform better. Pitchers performed better with the Braves even if they only pitched for the Braves at the beggining or end of their career. I even excluded Steve Avery because of injuries. His 1200 innings of excellent pitching for the Braves, coupled with 250 innings with an ERA over 5 elsewhere might have skew the data.

    Skewed the data? I might not have skewed the data if I misplaced a decimal point. Out of all the pitchers with significant innings, only Mike Stanton, Terry Mullholand, and Brad Clontz were worse as Braves, and only Clontz was noticably worse. Stanton and Mullholand were pretty much the same.

    These numbers aren't park adjusted, though I would assume that to not make much difference. After all Fulton County Stadium played as a hitters park, and Turner field has been pretty neutral over the last four years. They still should be taken in context of some reverse park and league adjustment that would make guys like John Burkett (Texas) and Denny Neagle (Colorado) look a little better, but not 26% better.

    Remember back when I talked about the Rick Peterson effect (and beat the national media to the punch, I might add). Well, that initial look suffered from a small sample size, 200 innings, and the gap has since closed somewhat thanks to Barry Zito, Tom Glavine, and Al Leiter's regression to the mean. This Braves data is based on almost 19,000 innings pitched, and it shows no signs of changing from 1991 to 2004!

    The effect Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone are having on pitchers is very real, and its very positive. On top of the strong work they've done in the above chart, they've also got single seasons way above the established level of guys like Jay Howell, Alan Embree, Russ Springer, Darren Holmes, Jose Cabrera, and who could forget the year Chris Hammond had in 2002 at age 36. Speaking of old guys, they got a decent 91 innings out of a 43 year old Dennis Martinez for crying out loud.

    The one thing that anyone could try and hold against the Braves organization was giving up on some young guys that have turned out to be pretty good. Jason Schmidt, Odalis Perez, and Jason Marquis are all pitching in prominent roles this year.

    Each one of those trades was defensible at the time, and doesn't look outrageously bad even now. They sent Schmidt to Pittsburgh at the trading deadline to pick up the afore-mentioned Denny Neagle who turned in two excellent seasons. Schmidt has since become a star, but it took five years of average pitching in Pittsburgh before he figured it all out. The Braves traded Perez to the Dodgers, but you can hardly blame them since Gary Sheffield came the other way and helped the Braves lead the league in runs scored in 2003. This offseason they traded Marquis to the Cardinals, but that trade worked out for both teams, as the Braves got J.D. Drew in return. So the Braves haven't even given up any of their good pitching prospects without receiving good value in return. They've also "given up" on guys like Rocker, Chen, Wohlers, Borbon, and Damian Moss who have gone on to become nothing in their post-Braves career.

    There is a lot of credit to be dished out for the success of the Braves staffs over the last thirteen years. GM John Schuerholz deserves a ton of credit for not only building one of the best player development systems, but also for being able to recognize major league talent that can help the Braves immediately through trades and free agency.

    Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone deserve tons of credit for putting each of their pitchers in the situations where they can succeed. Cox and Mazzone recognize the pitchers they need, the pitchers they can make a success, and the coaches are able to communicate those needs up the chain. Schuerholz, Cox, and Mazzone, can communicate so well that Schuerholz always knows what pieces they need, and Cox and Mazzone know exactly how all those pieces will fit together. The result has been THIRTEEN straight division titles.

    That's right, I have officially declared the NL East race OVER. Call the papers.

    Masters of the obvious can email Curt to mention they only have one ring to show for it.

    And by the way: Does anyone know whatever happened to Kevin McGlinchy? I mean, besides giving up the game winning home run to Robin ventura in this game. He disappeared faster than Bill Buckner after that one. Stupid Mets.