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
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
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