Ex-Athletics Report: Zito’s New Delivery
by Ken Arneson
2007-02-17 14:28

I’m now in my forties, and I am finally getting comfortable and confident with my own political beliefs. But I still don’t like talking about it much, because I see flaws with both sides of the major philosophical divide:

Progressives: Quite eager to fix problems, but because of the laws of unintended consequences, their solutions introduce as many problems as they solve, if not more.

Conservatives: Their fear of unintended (or intended) consequences leaves many problems unsolved.

Basically, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. What’s worse is when you can’t even tell which party supports which flawed philosophy. I’m sure you can come up with your own recent examples of Republicans making the progressive mistake, and Democrats making the conservative mistake.

Solving problems is hard. There is usually no perfect solution: there are risks, and there are tradeoffs. I suppose it’s too much to ask to have a discussion that acknowledges these risks and tradeoffs, instead of having everything labeled right or wrong, good or evil, brilliant or idiotic, for us or against us, to have a political discussion that doesn’t just descend into namecalling. But unfortunately, risks and tradeoffs don’t fit neatly into 30-second soundbites.

* * *

What got me thinking about this was my first reaction to the news about Barry Zito changing his delivery: “There he goes again.”

Back in 2004, he tried to change his delivery, presumably to solve a problem he was having with his knee. The unintended consequence was he lost his ability to reduce the BABIP against RHB, which is the whole key to his success. He abandoned the new delivery mid-season, at which point his BABIP-reducing skills quickly returned.

OK, new problem: Barry Zito has worn down in September each the last two seasons. ERA over 5.00 each time, unlike the summer months where his ERA has been excellent.

Barry Zito is a smart guy. Smart guys figure out how to solve problems, right? So Zito decides the problem is with his legs, or lack of use thereof, so he bulks up his legs in the offseason, and decides to use a different delivery that makes more use of his legs. More power from legs, less stress on arm, greater endurance…problem solved!

D’oh! Forgot about those unintended consequences.

Lessee, what possible unintended consequences could there be? Let’s make a list:

  • Loss of control
  • Loss of deception from release point
  • Loss of deception from difference in speeds
  • New delivery may cause injury

Hmm…so…what to do? Be conservative, leave things the way they were, and leave the endurance problem unsolved? Or be progressive, use the new delivery, hope that the unintended consequences are minimal, and solve the problem, hoping everything works out great?

Or…maybe…there could exist some sort of middle ground, that trades of a little of the risk for a little bit of progress towards solving the original problem? A–dare I say the word—compromise?

The more radical elements of Barry Zito’s new delivery appear headed for the dustbin after he and pitching coach Dave Righetti had a long chat Friday. Asked afterward if Zito will revert to something closer to his Oakland motion the next time he throws, Righetti said, “Probably.”

Righetti insisted he did not order Zito to scrap the new windup, which featured a longer stride and a more crouched stance, but said they talked for “a bunch” and had a meeting of minds. Zito still might incorporate some of what he tried on the mound Thursday to generate more thrust from his legs, but the result should be more like the upright delivery that made him successful with the A’s.

“You don’t look at a Michelangelo sculpture halfway done and start commenting on how terrible it is,” Zito said. “You wait until the final product.”

Damn Zito. He’s nothing but a flip-flopper.

Comments: 4
1.   Cliff Corcoran
2007-02-17 17:07

1.  Does Dave Righetti have a lifetime contract with the Giants, by the way? This the third manager under whom he's been the pitching coach. As a Yankee fan I love Rags, and he seems to be an excellent pitching coach, but it's not like the Giants have been known for their great pitching staffs, and I'm sure in Bochy's dozen years in San Diego he found a pitching coach or two that he enjoyed working with. Odd that Rags is still on staff.

2.   Ken Arneson
2007-02-17 17:57

2.  Everyone seems to like Righetti. Can't say that I've ever heard anyone say anything bad about him. He's a local guy; his roots are pretty deep around here, it's unlikely they'd even think of getting rid of him, unless some compelling reason came along.

3.   Johan
2007-02-17 18:38

3.  Righetti is a good guy with a good personality and sense of humor.

Whether he is a good pitching coach, who knows? He doesn't seem to be anything special.

4.   joejoejoe
2007-02-17 22:21

4.  I talk plenty of politics on other blogs so I just want to add that it's worthwhile to add risk mitigation to your list of considerations when discussing the relative merits of one or another political philosophy. Mitigating loss doesn't solve a problem or prevent it from occuring but it can limit damage, spread risk, and can be far more cost effective than 'intervention' or 'laissez-faire' during a failure of the system. Risk mitigation is boring but it's essentially why governments were formed in the first place. Both parties have had some successes and failures in the past doing risk mitigation and it's a good way to discuss politics that avoids a lot of heated discussion.

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