Monday, January 15, 2007

The Crystal Ball: Leo Mazzone

Camp Leo starts in Ft. Lauderdale in three weeks. Let see what Leo might do for the O’s staff in 2007.

The Mazzone Magic did not deliver as hoped in 2006. In 2005, the team posted an 4.57 ERA and an ERA+ of 91. In 2006, the ERA increased to 5.35 for an ERA+ of 84.

Was it disappointing? Yes. Were expectations realistic? Probably not.

Leo Mazzone was working in the Braves organization for years before he became the big league pitching coach and it really wasn’t until his second year with the big club that things started to turn around. The 1990 Braves pitching staff posted an ERA of 4.58 with an ERA+ of 88. In 1991, the Braves put up a 3.49 ERA and an ERA+ of 112.

You wouldn’t think that the O’s could post that kind of turnaround, a drop in ERA of one whole run. Or could they? Here’s a list of the Orioles who logged significant time on the mound and had an ERA over 5.00:

Rodrigo Lopez
Adam Loewen
Bruce Chen
Russ Ortiz
John Halama
Julio Manon
Hayden Penn

So let’s run through these guys real quick. Lopez is gone. Loewen is expected to be a good pitcher and will hopefully progress this year under Leo. Bruce Chen, Russ Ortiz and John Halama were terrible failures at reviving some arms off the scrapheap. Manon is not in the bullpen plans this year. Penn will either start the year in AAA or the bullpen and hopefully also will improve under Leo’s tutelage.

Jaret Wright joins the staff and was a league average pitcher last year. Bullpen depth was addressed in the offseason with several free agent signings. These changes alone could improve the team ERA to 4.35. Leo’s impact will be the young guys, Cabrera, Loewen and Penn. If he can whip them into shape, the O’s staff can see a similar turnaround that the 91 Braves staff experienced. 4.35 would have been good enough for 5th in the AL, more than respectable. It won’t be enough to get into the playoffs but will be solid proof of the Mazzone Effect. I’ll be very interested to see if the staff can improve to that mark.

All of the above assumptions, of course, is predicated on none of the projected cast going without significant injury this year. Let’s all hold our breath.

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