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Rick Peterson rarely arrives at a professional baseball club when things are going great. But somewhere along the line his free thinking approach to pitching, which usually involves the body, the mind and lots of statistical analysis, helps take a pitching staff to places many thought were hard to do. He left his mark on the “Moneyball” A’s, the New York Mets and most recently the Milwaukee Brewers, where his work helped make John Axford into one of baseball’s premier closers. Most recently, Peterson has spent time away from the field but not away from the game, working with Bloomberg Sports on its analytic programs for teams and players and helping develop its own customized pitching program with New Jersey-based 3P Sports.
But now Peterson is back in the game, in yet another new role, working with general manager Dan Duquette in the newly created position of Director of Pitching Development for the Baltimore Orioles. He will not have the traditional role of pitching coach; rather he will work throughout the organization to build a system that will link all levels of development together for the team and their prospects, as well as being involved with scouting. It is a new approach to building a system that Baltimore hopes will see rewards not just for today but for years into the future as the Orioles continue to claw their way back to the top of baseball under Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter.
We caught up with Peterson to talk about his new role and the new look O’s:
Q: How is this position different from everywhere else you have been?
Rick Peterson: It is totally different in its approach. With the support of Dan and Buck, we have brought in the American Sports Medicine Institute, spearheaded by Dr. James Andrews, to help us evaluate the mechanics of all our pitchers in the organization. By working with ASMI, we are creating a great footprint from which to build our programs from. It is the first time anyone is using this approach across the organization from such an early stage, so it is exciting and we think it will really give us a leg up on evaluation of all our pitchers and prospects going forward.
Q: What is it like to be with the Orioles?
RP: It is great and I have actually now come full circle since I was drafted by the Orioles as a teenager and never signed. It took me all these years to get here, and we are working in the very same clubhouse where the White Sox gave me my first chance to coach. So it is all pretty surreal for me, but it’s a great fit.
Q: Are there a lot of parallels from an organization standpoint between the Orioles and when you started with teams like the A’s and the Mets?
RP: Yes, there are lots, but the biggest difference is I’m really here to help develop the vision for the entire organization, not just the major league roster. However, all of the stops have been with teams that were rebuilding. The great thing about being with the Orioles is that I can draw upon past experience as to what works and what didn’t and can apply those best practices to what we are doing here. We have a culture that has been created here now to optimize performance and build through the organization, and that’s what I’m here to do. We need to build from within and I believe that is the way to go to be successful.
Q: You have spent the last few years off the field looking at the analytic work of Bloomberg Sports. How will that help you in this role?
RP: Analytics is key to success in every organization now. What I learned from Bloomberg Sports, and what we can apply here, is to customize the data combined with video to show everyone in the organization what is working and what needs to be adjusted. Their system makes it happen very quickly and it will speed up the process. You can’t be successful today without combining data with mechanics and I’m very pleased everyone here feels the same way.
Q: What are some of the other things you have seen which can help turn the Orioles around?
RP: I have had the chance to step back and look at what premier pitchers in the game do to be successful and see how the data supports that. Premier pitchers have consistent release points and keep the ball down in the strike zone, the better the pitcher the lower the average when the ball is down. We are going to continue to work to make that a priority from our pitchers and support it with data and video so that all our coaches in the organization are on the same page and are teaching the same thing.
Q: Did you enjoy your experience with Bloomberg Sports?
RP: Yes and I think it will be ongoing in many capacities. What they have built for teams and players is amazing, and their fantasy product is really the best in the business. It really makes fans get a leg up on others and gives you so much data in an easy way to have fun. They are a great company and I look forward to helping them with what we are doing here as well.
Q: What will your overall role be?
RP: Unlike other places I will have much more of an organizational role as it pertains to pitching. I will work with the coaches at every level to effectively put in our system and go from team to team to work them so that everything is understood and is going well. I will probably be helping with the draft in evaluating prospects, and if there is a need to help with some specific things with Buck and his staff or with other projects for Jim, I will be available to do that as well. The bottom line is that the Orioles are committed to being successful from the lowest levels on up and the only way to do that is with consistency of approach. From a pitching standpoint that is what I’m here to do, develop the right approach so that we are in a position to be best effective at all levels. That effectiveness breeds winning.
Q: Can the Orioles be successful as an organization?
RP: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think so. Dan and Buck are consummate professionals and are willing to do what it takes from an organizational standpoint to build a positive culture and process. The ownership has backed that vision up with the funds, and there are few places in sport where the fans are as passionate and lively as in Baltimore. I think the best is coming for the organization and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Topics: American Sports Medicine, American Sports Medicine Institute, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball Club, Dan Duquette, Dr James, Footprint, Free Thinking, John Axford, Manager Buck Showalter, milwaukee brewers, Moneyball, New Approach, New York Mets, Pitching Coach, Professional Baseball, Rick Peterson, Sports Medicine, Sports Medicine Institute, Statistical Analysis