I know I did it. You probably did it too. You probably make some jerk comment about how Barry Zito — vastly overpaid, not all that great pitcher — was starting in the playoffs for the Giants in a must-win, do-or-die, NLCS Game Give. You did it, just like I did it, because it was the easy thing to do. Personally, for me, all you have to do is mention the word “Zito” and “playoffs” and my synapses are already firing, giving birth to crude, stupid, fart-like Zito jokes.
ZAP: Hey! He’s not that good and he’s making a lot of money! LOL Zito!
Those two things — being paid a lot to do something and not being very good at doing that something — aren’t some abstract monster that fans dreamed up. Since Zito became a Giant, he really hasn’t been a very good pitcher.
|SFG (6 yrs)||1006.0||3.8|
He’s pitched a little over 1000 innings for the Giants. He’s added 3.8 wins over that time. Generally, teams pay around $4-5M per win added. So, we’d expect to pay around $14-15M for Zito’s past six years; the Giants paid Zito $99M for the past six years.
In his good years, he’s league average; in his bad years, he’s below that. Barry Zito. I came to grips a long time ago with Zito’s monstrously large contract. And, at this point in his Giants career, I think everyone else has come to grips with his contract. You hope and pray that on the days when Zito is pitching, he gives you six-ish innings of respectability. Anything more than that and you’re ahead of the game. This is the standard coping mechanism for Giants fans.
But, in last night’s start — which I regrettably missed due to a camping trip — Zito pitched his finest game as a Giant. On the road. In a must-win playoff game. Barry Zito. The punching bag, the punchline to the stupid joke that we all tell at one time or another, pitched the finest game of his Giants career. It has become terribly cliche to label these thing as just “baseball,” but in this case, I’m really not sure what to say other than “baseball.”
Zito dominated one of the best LHP-hitting lineups (the Cardinals’ 114 wRC+ against LHP was tied for best in the NL) in the league. And he did it for 7.2 innings on the road, in the playoffs.
WPA, or Win Probability Added, is a statistic that you’re probably familiar with. But, in a nutshell, it tries to figure out how much a player impacted a team’s chances of winning a game.
Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures this difference by measuring how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.
Zito’s WPA for last night’s win was .299 — the highest of any Giant in Game Five. It wasn’t even the best WPA start by Zito as a Giant — several rate higher — but, man, the timing of it.
Thanks, Barry Zito. You pitched a hell of a game. Thanks for keeping the heart and soul and unpredictability of baseball alive for another couple of games. Thanks for throwing knee-buckling curveballs. Thanks for providing me with great GIF material.