|Peterson's triangle helps Mets get a lot out of staff|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 14 July 2007 07:46|
Go further, and ask the New York Mets' pitching coach about his triangle system, and get ready for an engaging discourse based on years of honing his craft. Peterson carries the diagram with him in a little black book, and can point to a nice track record to illustrate its success.
From Oakland - where he helped make stars out of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder - to the Mets, Peterson has proven to have a deft touch with prospects, veterans trying to find their way and future Hall of Famers eager to keep going.
``He's been a big help for me at this stage in my career,'' said Tom Glavine, the Mets pitcher who is three wins shy of 300 heading into his scheduled start Saturday. ``He was very instrumental in helping me make a lot of adjustments in my game. He changed my game quite a bit.''
Peterson's black book is stuffed with business cards and scraps of paper, and the 52-year-old is careful as he thumbs through worn pages of meticulous notes. He stops in the middle to show off a triangle that stretches over two pages.
It has three overarching themes: fundamental skills, physical conditioning, and mental and emotional toughness. Each side stands alone and works in concert. For example, a long-toss drill is a fundamental skill that improves physical conditioning and involves mental and emotional focus because there is a target involved.
``So if you can take an activity with your pitchers that brings all three of these together that they're united, it's a three-dimensional activity,'' Peterson said, ``as opposed to a one-dimensional activity. And the hierarchy of the mental and emotional skills is keeping people focused on the process of performing, not the outcome of performing.''
Peterson is a lot like the triangle: multilayered and complex, way more than just the son of a championship-winning general manager.
He has had success grooming pitchers since he started doing it in 1998 in Oakland, where he was instrumental in the development of the Athletics' Big Three of Zito, Hudson and Mulder. Oakland led the AL in ERA in 2002 and 2003, and Zito won the Cy Young Award in 2002. And many believe Zito - now with the San Francisco Giants on a $126 million, seven-year contract - hasn't been the same since Peterson left for the Big Apple.
``He knows a lot about the inside game of baseball and knows as much as anyone about mechanics as well,'' Zito said. ``He greatly affected my career.''
Peterson became the Mets' pitching coach in November 2003, joining the team before Art Howe's second season as manager in New York. Howe was also his boss in Oakland. The team ERA dropped from 4.48 in 2003 to 4.09 in Peterson's first year.
Howe was fired after the Mets went 71-91 in 2004, but Peterson stayed on when Willie Randolph became the manager. The team ERA kept falling to 3.76 in 2005, good enough for third in the National League and eighth in the majors.
New York used 13 starting pitchers last season and still managed to win the NL East with a 4.15 team ERA, sixth best in the majors.
``He realizes that everyone is different,'' John Maine said of Peterson, ``and you've just got to find out the best way to relate to people and he does a good job of that.''
New York acquired Maine from the Orioles in January 2006. He was the least known commodity in a deal that also sent Kris Benson to Baltimore and landed Jorge Julio in New York.
Maine was 2-4 with a 6.60 ERA in 11 games over two seasons with the Orioles, but has blossomed into a dependable starter for New York, getting off to a 10-5 start this year with a 2.91 ERA.
``I think probably the mental part of it has helped me out a lot,'' Maine said.
Peterson has also helped New York's more established players extend their careers.
Glavine joined the Mets before the 2003 season and Leo Mazzone said he noticed a change in his former pupil under Peterson's guidance. Mazzone, the Orioles pitching coach who helped develop Glavine when he was with the Braves, said the left-hander has altered his approach.
``I remember one time we were playing the Mets and Tommy was pitching against us when I was with Atlanta, and he went inside behind in the count,'' Mazzone said. ``I had him for how many years, I don't think I ever saw him do it five times. I don't remember him ever doing it, period. That was a tip-off right there.''
The mental side has always been one of Peterson's biggest interests. The one-time pitching prospect, who was drafted twice and made it as high as Triple-A, studied psychology, art and philosophy in college in Florida. He refined his craft as a coach while developing White Sox minor leaguers at Double-A Birmingham in the late 1980s.
It was in Alabama that Peterson began working with renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews - who has done extensive work with pitchers - and learning about biomechanics at the American Sports Medicine Institute. He also was tabbed by former White Sox general manager Larry Himes to establish a performance-related sports psychology program for Chicago.
``The years with the White Sox totally changed my career,'' Peterson said. ``I was probably a much greater student during that time than I was a teacher by any means and I would not be able to offer this whole curriculum if I didn't have that kind of education.''
Peterson also owes a lot to his father, Harding Peterson, a former minor league manager who was the GM when the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1979 World Series. Peterson traveled with his dad through minor league stops in the South when he was a kid, watching as some restaurants refused to serve the team because of its black and Latin players.
When his dad was with the Pirates, Peterson hung out with Roberto Clemente, 1960 Cy Young Award winner Vernon Law and former Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh.
``I saw firsthand what this industry is about,'' Peterson said. ``I lived it. I was on the field. I've had a uniform on since I (was) 2 years old.''
He's still wearing a uniform, only now it includes a zipped-up Mets jacket and a black book containing a wealth of knowledge gained on and off the field.
AP Sports Writers Andrew Bagnato in Phoenix and Bill Konigsberg in New York contributed to this report.