Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back to the Future: Zito's Got a Brand New Old Delivery

As widely reported, Zito has a new delivery motion: Chron, Giants. He says that he is just returning to the style he used when he was in college - he didn't really get into what got him out of that style and no reporter was astute enough to ask such a question. And the reporters and Righetti are a bit leery about changing a motion that has been success for Zito during his career.

Or has it? According to saber-rules, Zito is a bit of an anomaly, because he walks too many and gives up too many homers and don't strike out nearly enough to make up for that. What he does do excellently, which in DIPS theory is the equivalent of the bumblebee, impossible to exist, is keep the hitter from getting good wood on the ball and thus not give up as many hits as regular pitchers do. And if anyone hasn't noticed, he hasn't been exactly Cy Young material after he won the trophy.

Smells Like Fastball Spirit

According to Zito, this motion will generate more power from his lower body and legs, and put less strain on his arm. The fear by Rags is that he will lose his hammer curve by making this change. The change in angle and how he positions his body and release point could make his curve less effective. Plus it is natural to fear leaving what was successful for something new, watching his new delivery make some other injury more likely and push him to the DL.

But to me, this sounds like he is switching his delivery to be more like pitchers who have experienced great longevity in not only their careers, but in performance at their highest levels: Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens. From what I understand about their pitching style, they are all "leg" men, deriving their power from their powerful legs. Both Ryan and Clemens pitched into their late 40's, still top pitchers, using this delivery style. Perhaps Boras, Zito's new agent, did some research and suggested this to Zito after seeing that he used to use that style in college.

The Teacher Learns From the Pupil-to-be

Or perhaps Zito started some research of the Giants wunderkinds, Cain and Lincecum, after he signed on with the Giants, to see where he can help them out, with tips and such. To be the leader, because he feels he should after signing the biggest contract ever given a pitcher. But then he looked at Lincecum's delivery and remembered that this was the type of delivery he used to use in college. Then he read about the benefits that Lincecum got from using such a delivery and how his arm doesn't need to be iced after games while being able to long throw the next day without apparent harm or tiring.

That's the first thought I had when I read about his new delivery, it sounds exactly like Lincecum's "unorthodox" delivery. So maybe he's going back to it, now that he's a better, more mature pitcher, able to utilize his breaking pitches better, but with this new delivery resulting in less wear on his arm while gaining velocity. That would help him fulfill his contract when all are saying that the Giants are crazy for giving him such a long contract and still allow him to pitch effectively.

In Any Case: More Better Gooder

Either way, imagine how much more effectively Zito can be if he can still throw his breaking pitches effectively while adding a few MPH to his fast ball? He used to be a strikeout pitcher when he was younger and, I suppose, his young arm could throw for more velocity to go with his curve ball, allowing him to strike out a lot more batters when he was younger. But as he has aged, he has lost velocity, resulting in less strikeouts. This could help him be that much more effective as a pitcher while gaining more longevity in the process.

At least, this is what I'm hoping. The scared fan in me fears that this will cause him to have some injury and be out. I have to say, though, that I admit the guts of someone who has been pretty successful to switch everything in order to improve himself, particularly after signing such a huge contract. Even if I weren't a Giants fan, I wish him the best in trying something 99.9999% of people would not dare try.

7 comments:

  1. I sure hope he can add a few MPH to his heater, if only to justify the exorbitant amount of money the Giants have paid him.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't think he has to justify the amount of money he got. I am not outraged by the contract, and think it can be easily justified. Risky? Sure, they all are. But, now we have him.
    I am glad to see he's not complacent, that he worked out hard over the winter, strengthening his legs, hips and core. I am glad to see he cares, thinks about his game, tries to improve

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm jazzed.

    When was the last time we had a (former) Cy Young winner on the staff? When was the last time we had a pitcher retool his entire delivery over the winter?

    It's an auspicious beginning and it makes me think this team might have some life.

    Here's the rest of my dream list for Spring Training:

    1. Ortiz proves he's got some of his old stuff;
    2. Sanchez proves he's a viable #4-#5 starter;
    3. Lincecum proves he's already the best pitcher on the staff, at least in terms of strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP.

    Perhaps none of those wishes materialize; it's also possible all three come true, in which case we've got some incredible depth (and trade bait).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, Barton, wouldn't it be great if we had so many starters we were FORCED to trade Morris?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Morris and Feliz together might yield a decent third baseman.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Morris and Feliz together might yield a decent third baseman."



    ...but only if the Giants pick up all of their salary.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Even then, you might not still get a decent 3B. Good 3B are hard to find. Hence why the A's signed Chavez but not any of the other offensive stars. Or why Florida felt compelled to return Cabrera to 3B.

    Feliz is useful in small doses, hopefully he and Aurilia together will make a decent 3B.

    ReplyDelete

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