Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Good Thing They Didn't Sign This Guy

The fall of Barry Zito is perhaps as perplexing a baseball scenario as I've come across. He was the epitome of an innings-eater in the mold of an Andy Pettitte in that he allowed far too many baserunners yet frequently beguiled his way out of trouble.

Since his first full season in the majors, Zito was the model of health and stability, throwing at least 200 innings all six years in Oakland, missing bats, winning a Cy Young and posting healthy ERA's. With only 2004 serving as a disappointment, Zito was making his way into the National League and an expected bounce in his performance would all but validate the $126 million San Francisco had given him.

However, 2007 was not nearly as kind to Zito as most everyone in baseball expected. His fastball had dropped into the low-80s and he posted the poorest k/9 in his career. A mystifying feat considering the weaker lineups he encountered in the NL. Which begs the question, can a 29 year-old really regress so rapidly and so drastically?

The Yankees [as well as a host of other potential suitors] are now rejoicing they did not throw $100+ million at the previously dominant lefty.

From the article:

Zito went after the hitters. He didn’t mess around. He threw strikes.

And the Dodgers ate them up, every juicy morsel.

That shouldn’t have been surprising, given Zito’s horrendous spring training. In fact, every detail of the Giants’ 5-0 loss seemed to fulfill the scorched-earth expectations of this club.
How does a 29-year-old decline as much as Zito has? Even at his absolute worst during seven years in Oakland, he promised to be a steady 14-game winner. At his best, he offered stunning mastery, the ability to stare down the brilliant Johan Santana in a playoff game.
The number of hits wasn’t as disturbing as the authority behind them. The Dodgers made great contact, getting nothing on the cheap. The radar gun offered another bad verdict. For the most part, Zito didn’t throw harder than 84 mph all day. He knows his fastball has lost velocity, and doesn’t quite understand why.

“Right now, it’s 84-85 at the high end, which obviously is frustrating for me,” he said. “You’ve got a look at, usually when things like this happen, it’s either an injury, which it is not, or it’s something mechanical. So, you know, I’m always learning and trying to get better, and those things and obviously looking at old tapes and things like that and want to get that 88-89 back, and I’m sure it’s just a small tweak away.”

Strange. It will be an interesting story to watch, especially with the poor start to Zito's 2008. However, the southpaw still has the dynamite 12-to-6 curve and should he ever rediscover his high 80's heater, he could quickly regain his status as a frontline starter.

Brian Sabean and Company are hoping praying they aren't the April Fools again this year.

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