With the deluge of Zito-centric news lately, I think I should change this blog’s name to “Zito City Ball” or something. Ugh.
It’s official, the Giants have the most expensive middle reliever, ever, in the history of baseball.
From the Chronicle:
The man who leads the majors in starts the past eight seasons will miss his turn in the rotation for the first time in his career. Zito, who’s 0-6 with a 7.53 ERA, was told by Giants manager Bruce Bochy before Monday night’s 4-0 win over Colorado that he’ll work out of the bullpen in the immediate future, and he accepted the demotion with reluctance but without protest.
The Chron article is peppered with Zito quotes and even a few from P-Mags, as the kids say, but as hopeful as Zito sounds, there’s a myriad of quotes that try to boil the situation down to the mental aspect of pithing.
Zito told a group of reporters. “From my standpoint, it’s a bump in the road. It’s a big bump. It’s a battle. It’s stuff I’ve gone through (with the A’s), but there wasn’t the kind of scrutiny around it because of the market or the contract.
“Oakland’s under the radar. There weren’t microscopes. I don’t resist the microscope or any of that stuff. It’s a new challenge. It’s good. There’s a lot of growth and strength that comes out of these things.”
“It’s not about stuff. It’s not about velocity,” he said. “It’s just about attacking the strike zone and being aggressive.”
Don’t let me fool you, I do believe that mental preparation is very important for starting pitchers. Sure, why not, but I strongly, strongly, disagree that it’s not about velocity or pitch quality. Batters are making a ton of contact against Zito — only an 8% swinging strike rate, which not only is extremely low, it’s a career low for Zito — and unless mental preparation can give him 4-5mph back on his fastball, it might not matter much how much you prepare for the game. Zito’s fastball has atrophied, his control has slipped further, and his breaking stuff ain’t breaking so much.
For example, we’ve been hearing from Zito himself, since he got here, about how many things are tripping him up. It’s been the contract, the media market, the pressure, and everything else. But you’ve never heard Zito blame it on his pitch quality and velocity. I think he could know, deep down, that he’s in trouble and that he doesn’t posses the same type of stuff he once did and he lacks the physical tools to compensate for the changes — better command of the strike zone.
This entire situation is just bizarre and great fodder for the rest of the sports community — trying googling Barry Zito and reading any sports blog, hoo-boy. The Giants overpaid for Zito when nobody else would approach the deal they gave him. Hoodwinked by Scott Boras or an organizational failure representative of changes needing to be made? You decide!
Put bluntly, I think the Giants overvalued Zito tremendously and not essentially from a statistical viewpoint. Yeah, yeah, we know he had shiny win totals over the years but I think the Giants wanted to, convinced themselves they needed to, invest in someone who they could plaster on T-Shirts. Barry Bonds? Well, he’s kinda mean and cranky and he had his own recliner in the clubhouse. Barry Zito? Kooky! Kids will love him!
The usual PR fluff was in full force when Zito signed, I recall specifically Magowan mentioning that Zito was the most important signing that the Giants have made since they signed Bonds in the early 90′s, umpteen some years ago. But was it more than PR niceties? A part of me thinks that Magowan and everyone else believed what they were selling. That Barry Zito could actually be just as important to the Giants as Barry Bonds had been. That he would lead the franchise into it’s next phase as it’s premiere player.
Magowan may have been right, Zito will be important but for all the wrong reasons. Overpaid, expensive, and declining. What I wouldn’t give to hear some of the internal discussions right now in Giants HQ. The Giants have invested themselves heavily in Zito and with that investment they’ve bought themselves some time. Time to see if Zito can ever regain anything and become an average pitcher once again. The money is spent and they have to find out what they can get from Zito. Just don’t expect any great advances to come from this move to the bullpen.
Prove me wrong Zito, it wouldn’t be the first time, but everything else points to a very messy next couple of years.
For the price conscious, Barry Zito Fathead’s are now on sale at 60% off! Time to stock up and save! Me, personally, I just think they are clearing out stock for the new and improved, more realistic Zito Fathead.