Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hire Rick Peterson: Zito's Guru

Recently, the Mets fired their manager and their pitching coach, among others, just after midnight, just after a nice win. The import of this to Giants fans is that their former pitching coach, Rick Peterson, was Barry Zito's pitching guru when they were together at Oakland. That was my first thought when I heard the news: we got to hire him.

Apparently I was not the only one. Henry Schulman has a great article on that here that discusses this idea. The Giants internally are already thinking this way. And Henry has a good explanation of how this would work internally for them.

However, some don't agree. Some bring up the Zambrano trade as a caveat on Peterson coaching skills, but I think Zambrano had some sort of physical problem that prevented him from pitching; perhaps if he was healthy (i.e. the GM did the proper due diligence on Zambrano's history) Peterson might have been able to do his magic with Zambrano. Plus, one mistake should not negate his history of success with the A's.

Some, like Gary Radnich on KNBR earlier today, think hiring Peterson is a stupid idea. Gary, in particular, says that it's assinine to hire a "baby-sitter" for Zito, that this makes Zito "small". He says that perhaps he's being old-school with such thoughts but that's how he feels.

Biggest No-Brainer in the History of Giant-kind

I think he's just being wrong.

It's a no-brainer to me: Peterson was the coach when Zito was very successful. Yes, some of Zito's troubles are due to him being older but one thing people forget is that Zito is supposedly in the prime of his physical health, so that has never flyed with me as an excuse. He is doing something wrong mechanically relative to what he was doing before and he didn't know how to fix himself.

Unlike Barry Bonds, his mechanics guru wasn't his dad, available whenever he wanted him. And Peterson is Zito's guru. Mychal Urban, who wrote a book about the A's Ace Trio, is a good friend with Zito, and is a KNBR weekend anchor, said this morning that Peterson would just know when Zito is falling into bad habits or not properly following his mechanics and would tell him exactly where to go and what to do. And now he's available.

In fact, according to Schulman's article, Peterson was Zito's guru even before they both joined the A's, it was just a historical coincidence that they met up there, as Peterson had coached Zito when Zito was in college. So they have a long history together that started before the A's.

Thus, Peterson would not be a baby-sitter, a baby-sitter implies that all he would do is watch Zito and collect a check. He would be working actively with Zito to get him back to where he was before. He also knows how Zito "clicks", both physically and mentally.

How to Avoid Distraction

I do agree with Gary that bringing Peterson on as a coach would probably be a big distraction, so I would just hire Peterson as a Special Assistant, which is the title and job that they gave to JT Snow and Robb Nen, where they both go and instruct in the minors and majors. And as Schulman noted in his article, other special assistants, like Ron Perranoski (must kill long-time D-ger fans that he helped the Giants become a pitching power; I was very excited when Perranoski was hired to assist the Giants; probably as much as it killed me to see Jack Clark in D-ger blue...).

Another route is that Barry's making $14.5M this year and over $18M for the next 5 seasons, so he could take some of that and hire his old guru to help him out with private lessons or whatever, he could be part of Barry's "posse", much like how Bonds had his group of "instructors" following him around in the clubhouse.

Or even better, Peterson went to NY to be closer to his family, Zito could hire him to work from home, pay for a Giants video feed to Peterson's home and send him a million hours of tape showing Zito's pitching form over the years, thus allowing him to spend mega-time with his family while spending a few hours per week advising Zito and other hours studying the old tapes. And on a Zen note, wouldn't that be karmic justice that he repays the person arguably responsible for him being able to earn such a huge contract by giving him a livelihood while allowing him a lot of free time to spend with his family?

And this don't have to be permanent, he can rest and recharge for a while with his family doing this before he finds another job in the MLB. Meanwhile, he can help straighten out his old buddy, perhaps impart some of that knowledge to the Giants coaching staff, and get out of the pressure cooker that the MLB can be, if only for a little while, particularly since the Mets are paying for his time off to next season. A season and a half of Peterson helping Zito could only help.

Giants Pitching Philosophy

Thinking further, I would hire Peterson to create a pitching bible that will guide player development of pitchers for the Giants farm system, while also instructing players (with, of course, his main pupil being Zito). I think that the Giants already has a philosophy, which Peterson would capture in creating such a guidance document and add to it, but I suspect that there isn't anything written down yet.

Given the future of the Giants are tied to their pitching, I think it's time for such a document to exist if it doesn't already, and if it does, Peterson could only add to that document's knowledge base, given his experience and reputation in baseball. And such a document would inform future generations of Giants, management and players, much like how Alderson's work with Eric Walker still is being used by the A's today.

2 comments:

  1. I think that Peterson's cerebral style would be a good fit for Planet Zito. Also, this is a guy who knows Zito's delivery back to front, so he would know how to get Zito to make adjustments.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, I think so too, but Sabean has already spoken somewhere that it wouldn't be fair to Righetti if the Giants hired Peterson.

    So I guess Zito will have to copy Barry Bonds and hire Peterson himself to be his personal trainer/coach, kind of like how Tomko had a sports psychiatrist on his payroll to help him with whatever issues he was going through.

    Hopefully Peterson would be amenable to such an arrangement, though he might want to take a paid vacation this summer to spend time he normally don't have with his family.

    ReplyDelete

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