Baker Gets Bum Rap Concerning Wood, Prior
OK, so the Reds have hired Dusty Baker as their new manager, and half of Reds Nation has gone ballistic, with the chief complaint against him apparently being that Dusty ruined Mark Prior and Kerry Wood when he was in Chicago.
Before you subscribe to the theory that something Baker did somehow derailed the career of Mark Prior, you might want to read this analysis by Chris O’Leary, a part-time pitching mechanics analyst and consultant who developed methodology for analyzing pitching mechanics that was used by one major league team for the 2007 MLB draft. In that analysis, O’Leary demonstrates that Prior’s arm troubles are the result of numerous flaws in his delivery and motion. Even if Dusty never managed an inning for the Cubs, Mark Prior’s arm was bound to fall off anyway.
Besides that, some digging I’ve done on the web reveals that Prior’s medical problems seem to have begun when he had a collision on the basepaths with Marcus Giles while advancing to second base on a ground ball during a game in 2003, on which play Prior may have separated his shoulder. In any case, he missed almost a month for something that has nothing to do with Dusty Baker or pitch counts, and afterward he apparently altered his delivery and throwing motion to compensate for pain in his throwing arm in a way that further contributed to his own arm troubles.
As for Kerry Wood, he was a medical trainwreck before Dusty Baker ever put on a Cubs uniform. Two days before the 1995 MLB draft, when he was a 17-year old high school player, Wood threw 175 pitches in a doubleheader, then was drafted by the Cubs, and a year later, sat out a month as a minor leaguer because of a tender elbow. He made it to the majors in 1998. In August ’98 he sprained his elbow but, with the Cubs in the wild card race, he worked through the pain in the season’s final weeks. Then he tore a ligament in his right arm during his first outing of spring training in 1999 and was done for the year, undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 1999 – four years before Baker took over as manager.
While I couldn’t find an analysis of Wood’s pitching motion similar to the one for Prior that I linked to above, I do know from watching him myself that he has a bad habit of throwing across his body, which I’m sure has contributed to some of his injury history…and so has the fact that this is a guy who fires the ball to the plate as hard as he can every time he takes to the mound.
Why am I posting this? Regardless of what you think of Dusty, he’s been hired to manage the Reds for the next three years, and once he puts on that uniform, he’s one of us. I wasn’t thrilled they hired him either, and the whole Wood/Prior thing was the main reason why. But like many of us who are Reds fans, I don’t follow the Cubs very closely (Seriously, who’d wanna?), so I wasn’t watching the careers of Prior and Wood, before or during Baker’s tenure as manager. I accepted what was coming out of Chicago’s media on the subject as fact.
But after doing some more reading since the Reds hired Dusty, it’s plain to me that the pundits in Chicago were wrong. I don’t know what their axe to grind with Dusty was, why they hung the blame on Dusty for Prior and Wood’s medical problems. I don’t know what other peoples’ beef against Dusty may be, either. I do know that if it has to do with Prior and Wood, you may want to do some more research before you nail Dusty to the cross despite the fact that he has yet to manage an inning in a Reds uniform.
Dusty Baker is not the reason for the injury problems of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are the reasons for the injury problems of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
Update Nov. 2, 2007: This thread subsequently produced an e-mail from Chris O’Leary advising that on his web site, he has an updated analysis of Prior’s mechanics that readers here might also be interested in.