The loss of Leo Mazzone would indeed be a loss
By Matthew Taylor
The story of the day is of course Sam Perlozzo's termination. I first saw the news late this morning on the Orioles.com website. I found it rather humorous that the story stated - as late as 1 p.m. - that the Birds were reportedly going to fire Perlozzo and referenced ESPN.com as a source for the news.
Shouldn't the team's official website have the goods on this one? It's something akin to visiting the White House website and reading a story about how the U.S. is reportedly going to invade Iraq with CNN as the source for the news. I haven't seen someone get scooped like this since Vanity Fair reported that Mark Felt was Deep Throat.
For whatever it may lack in breaking team news, "The Official Site of the Baltimore Orioles" at least offers accurate team stats (as does MLB.com, the other source for this posting). Take a look at the numbers for the Birds' current starting rotation and you could make a strong case that the real loss from the Perlozzo firing will be that of pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
You've got to figure that Mazzone will skip town now that his good friend got the ax, and that should be sad news for O's fans. Say what you will about Mazzone, but the truth is he's done a very respectable job with the pitching staff. The O's have serious trouble in the bullpen. They have serious trouble at the plate. But - yes, I'm serious - the starters have put up very decent numbers thus far in 2007.
-Erik Bedard currently leads the major leagues in strikeouts with 112. He's averaging an impressive 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
-Jeremy Guthrie, a waiver-wire pick-up with an ERA over 6.00 last season, has strung together eight consecutive quality starts and currently has the sixth best ERA in baseball. (Brian Burres doesn't have enough starts to qualify, but his 2.94 ERA would rank near the top as well.)
-Overall, the Birds' injury-riddled staff has more pitchers in the Top 50 for ERA (Guthrie, No. 6; Bedard, No. 40; Trachsel, 47) than does the Red Sox's much-celebrated staff (Beckett, No. 31; Schilling, No. 43).
-Boston's starting rotation has a combined 4.10 ERA. The ERA for the O's current starters is 3.79 (note: Boston starters have six more starts than Baltimore's rotation once you take out Orioles starters who are on the disabled list).
What the Birds' starting rotation lacks is wins, largely because of an inept bullpen and a meager lineup. Josh Beckett started the season 9-0 before losing his first game. Jeremy Bonderman (7-0) still has yet to lose. Put either one in Orange and Black and they've probably got four wins a piece at best.
Considered from a different angle, put Jeremy Guthrie on the Red Sox and he's the talk of baseball, a waiver wire pick-up on his way to the All-Star game, a lock for Rookie of the Year. Put Erik Bedard on the Tigers and he's a key piece of the best young rotation in baseball.
Given a strong bullpen and a decent lineup, Mazzone would be a legend. Then again, given a strong bullpen and a decent lineup, Sam Perlozzo would still be the O's manager.