The Case For Barry Zito

Categories: Media, Sports
ud zito z.jpg
Barry Zito is a lot better than you think. Of course, that statement is relative.
My old pal Randy Shaw at BeyondChron and your humble narrator will never be confused for blood brothers -- but we are both U.C. Berkeley alums and longtime San Francisco Giants supporters who have suffered mightily for our sporting allegiances. I agree with Shaw on most of his proclamations about the Bears or Giants -- which is nice, because arguing with Shaw isn't any fun.

But I was a bit puzzled by Shaw's article today, "Giant Delusions on Zito." I can't disagree with Shaw's argument that signing Barry Zito to his massive contract was an unmitigated disaster and the pitcher will never regain his Cy Young form. But I'm confused by the major thesis of Shaw's piece: Because some sports radio yapper said the Giants would be a lock to win the division if Zito won 15 to 18 games, large numbers of Giants fans must be "delusionally" expecting the pitcher to rebound and have a career year.

In response:

  • People on sports radio say stupid things. Every day. Every hour. That's what they do. 
  • That being said, it's not "delusional" to say the Giants will easily take the west if Zito wins 15 to 18 games; that's undeniably true. It's just a hyperbole -- because no one in his right mind thinks Zito will win 15 to 18 games. Which leads me to...
  • Where are these battalions of Giants fans predicting Zito will turn everything around this year and pitch stellar games? Do you know anyone who thinks this?
And yet, while we've ladled plenty of abuse upon Zito, it'd be intellectually dishonest not to note that he pitched markedly better last year than in his two prior disastrous seasons with the Giants. And the statistics back this up.
 
Granted, these are not the statistics of a great or even very good pitcher. But it's undeniable that the same anemic offense and shoddy relief pitching that kept Tim Lincecum from being a 20-game winner kept Zito from winning more than he lost and posting halfway decent totals.

In fact, did you know that while Zito was 10-13, the team went 18-15 in games he started? Bet you didn't.

Also, it warrants mentioning that Zito was the unlucky recipient of less support from the Giants offense than Screamin' Jay Hawkins gave to his 75-odd illegitimate children.

Here's the 2009 run-support for Giants starting pitchers:

Barry Zito: 3.54
Jonathan Sanchez: 3.63
Randy Johnson: 4.02
Matt Cain: 4.26
Tim Lincecum: 4.57

By the way -- that's not a lot (remember, the Giants had a lineup full of No. 7 hitters and Pablo Sandoval last year). The Yankees' C.C. Sabathia got 5.96 runs per game; Toronto's Roy Halladay got 5.20

So, no, I haven't met any of these Zito die-hards Shaw seems to think are out there, pumping up Barry's chances at duplicating his 2002 wonder season. But it stands to reason that if Zito pitches about as well as he did last year and the team scores just a bit more for him, his statistics could improve from "sub-par" to "not bad." You can't say Lincecum deserved to win the Cy Young with just 15 wins because of extraneous circumstances and not also give Zito the same consideration. You just can't. 

He'll never earn his millions, but Barry Zito can help this Giants team. He helps it by not hurting it.

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