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August 20, 2002

The Daily Prospectus

Slag You Very Much

by Gary Huckabay

I spend a lot of time on the business side of baseball. I've also got some pretty strong opinions about how a business should be run. I was fortunate enough to hear W. Edwards Deming speak a couple of times, and I probably pay more heed to his words than anyone else's, for better or worse. (Most of the people who claim to have picked up the Deming mantle after his passing are either incompetent, unethical, or some combination of both.) Anyway, Dr. Deming said one thing to a group of attendees that really stuck with me:

"Good management isn't surprised when expected outcomes become actual outcomes."

On Monday, the Florida Marlins placed starting pitcher A.J. Burnett on the 15-day DL with a "bone bruise". Despite being categorized as a bone bruise, Burnett did not identify a collision or impact that might have caused the bruise. Burnett's range of motion was limited to the point where he couldn't touch his right shoulder with his right hand. The Associated Press report included the following:

Burnett is 12-9 with a 3.25 ERA. He began the week third in the majors with 191 innings and fourth with 183 strikeouts.

"We didn't see this coming," general manager Larry Beinfest said. "He has been a workhorse all year. He has been terrific."

Here's Burnett's Usage Log for the season:


Date       Pit  BF
3-Apr-02   112  31
8-Apr-02   106  25
14-Apr-02  124  33
20-Apr-02   68  22
20-Apr-02  125  30
25-Apr-02  125  33
5-May-02   105  30
10-May-02  121  32
15-May-02  117  29
21-May-02   99  25
26-May-02  115  31
31-May-02   96  24
5-Jun-02   116  33
10-Jun-02  116  31
15-Jun-02  128  34
20-Jun-02  103  23
25-Jun-02  127  29
30-Jun-02  128  38
5-Jul-02    94  25
12-Jul-02   98  23
17-Jul-02   81  27
22-Jul-02  110  25
27-Jul-02  132  31
1-Aug-02   128  32
7-Aug-02    93  27
12-Aug-02  123  33
18-Aug-02  117  30

It's not determinative, but what's the freaking point? Burnett's 25, has a tremendous arm, and Florida isn't even in a situation where they have to make the ethical decision of whether or not they should spend his arm before he leaves. The Marlins have already given up on this season, and rightly so. So why back to back complete games? Burnett's 3rd in the NL in innings pitched. Towards what end? What is there to gain?

Baseball teams have a number of constraints when it comes to player personnel. We spend a lot of time looking at finances, because that's a high profile item. But there's more than just that. Clubs have to find playing time for players, manage their options, deal with their agents, see that they get adequate training, coaching, and workout regimens, as well as making sure that the little things like actually getting to the games happen. It's not just a question of making a signing or drafting someone and letting nature take its course.

With that in mind, don't you think the Marlins could have made better use of at least 20% of Burnett's late season innings? Certainly someone could have used that time to stay sharp, or work on a new pitch, or get their feet wet in the majors. It may not have mattered; Burnett's injury might not be related to his workload this year. But given the circumstances, the goals of the club, the tiny upside, and the huge downside if things go wrong, it looks from here as if Marlin Management, presumably led in this case by Jeff Torborg, didn't make a great decision.

Just to recap--Torborg and Bruce Kimm are currently responsible for the arms of Burnett, Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, and Kerry Wood. Can we get some Earl Weaver in the hizzouse?

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

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