Now that pitchers and catchers are back and doing baseball things, it seems the floodgates for new player pieces have opened up. I can’t say that I blame sportswriters too much when this stuff comes out, because pickings are slim and I’m not sure how much anyone can write about the early stages of baseball camp.
“This guy showed up and now he’s throwing with the opposite arm. This guy here, well, he learned how to throw an eephus pitch while in the Winter Leagues. Oh, and this guy, he no longer tries to swing the bat with his feet. Professional hitter, that one.”
Yeah, this isn’t exactly a time of bustling news. But with new baseball in the spring inevitably comes new Barry Zito stories and what the Giants need from him. At first Zito was expected to be a leader of the rotation and then 2007 and everything else happened, and the Giants learned what they thought they bought and what they actually bought were two different things. Each passing year the Zito Expectations seem to lower.
In a piece titled “Zito adjusts delivery to add late movement“, Andrew Baggarly surmises the newest set of expectations.
They simply need him to throw more strikes, work something near to six innings and hand the game over to the bullpen. Zito, 33, left the impression he wants to do more than that.
The “throw six innings and not totally stink” tagline seems like the new Zito mantra. In fact, it’s pretty much what Zito has done during his time with the Giants.
Listed above is the percentage of Zito games in which he threw at least six innings versus the league average. In most years, Zito has been around the league average, which has tended to hover around 60-61 percent of starts. Despite the problem with Zito — namely being a sunk cost — he’s pitching six innings per start at nearly the same rate as the league average starter. The quality of Zito’s innings might not be on the same level, but we can say he’s throwing as deep into games as the league average guy.
There are real concerns with Zito, I think, and they are mostly related to declining velocity. I admit, I’ll have a hard time believing he can be successful if he’s throwing in the low-80s and not the mid-upper-80s that we are accustomed to; and, I think the Giants probably share some of these concerns.
Zito isn’t worthless. He’s been nearly a two win pitcher each season since he joined the Giants, and despite our gut reaction of rage for a guy getting paid millions and millions to just be league average, there is some value in there. It’s not proportional to what he’s being paid, but there is some value. Just ignore the money and things are a little easier to deal with. Just crunch it up into a little ball and digest it. There, don’t you feel better? It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a perfectly Zito-y season this year; throwing 200 innings, posting an ERA in the mid-fours, and walking too many hitters some nights before throwing a decent game here or there. This is the existence of Barry Zito.
Personally, I still like Surkamp — shocking, I know — and I think he’ll be acceptable in the long run. The Giants have a bit of the unknown in their rotation with Ryan Vogelsong, and despite the perception of how poor a pitcher Zito is, he does bring a little stability to things, no matter how vanilla that stability is.
So, good news, Giants, the guy you’re looking for is already here! Success!