Will Mazzone's Philosophy Fix Guthrie's Problems?

Jeremy Guthrie

Jeremy Guthrie

I have just one simple question to ask in my first post:  What in the world happened to Jeremy Guthrie?

Three seasons ago, Guts (as many fans call him) was an up-and-coming rookie in his late-20s looking for a second chance in the big leagues.  In the previous three years of his career, he pitched in only 16 total games out of the bullpen for the Cleveland Indians.  Now with the Orioles, his career appeared reborn.  He went 7-5 with a 3.70 ERA, and opposing batters hit a measly .249 against him.  He was in the final balloting for the AL Rookie of the Year.  He was on top of the world.

The next season was much of the same.  Although the wins did not come as often, the ERA decreased.  He went 10-12 with a 3.63 earned run average as he solidified himself as “ace” of the Baltimore Orioles.  Fans went into 2009 expecting great things from him, and then the World Baseball Classic came.

Following his dismal performance representing Team USA, Guts never appeared the same.  This carried into the ’09 season, finishing at 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA.  Suddenly, his career made a turn for the worst, and even today we see no signs of a turnaround.  So far in Spring Training 2010, an 0-3 record and 7.47 ERA have been the big stories in the O’s rotation.

So where did it all go wrong?

The first thing to look at is his primary issue:  Pitches up in the zone.  Pitching in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a clear hitters’ ballpark, these “meatballs” become home run balls, leaving Guts with a downed spirit and an early walk to the bench.  This issue didn’t seem so large, though, back in 2007.

Three seasons ago, the pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, taught one simple rule.  The formula that brought him  success in the Atlanta Braves organization with the likes of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine was to keep the pitches “down-and-away”.  And so Guthrie did.

In ’07, he allowed only 22 homers, and in ’08, only 24.  This is compared to the 35 bombs given up last season.  It appears as though whatever Mazzone taught him in their one season together worked in the Birds’ favor; however, much of that lesson has surely been lost.

So here we stand today, with the #2 starter in the rotation pitching like a #5.  Some fans even debate that Guthrie should see some bullpen time if the trend continues.  To the series of unfortunate events, all I have to say is this:  Whatever Mazzone taught him worked, and now it is time for him to recall Leo’s teachings.  Sure, I wasn’t the biggest fan of old Leo, especially after the comments he made after failing miserably in his short tenure with the Birds.  It’s time, though, for Guthrie to get back to his ways of old.  Word of advice, pitch with a “down-and-away” mentality from here on out.  Nothing else appears to be working, and something has to change.  Otherwise, he’ll be right back to where he was before 2007:  Looking for a chance to rejuvenate a broken career.

(To hear more on the topic at hand, be sure to listen to the latest Birds Watcher podcast on the side bar.)

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