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Are we really doing the “Barry Zito has figured it out” thing again?

May 1, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

Barry Zito Reuters

There’s an article in the San Francisco Chronicle San Jose Mercury News about Barry Zito’s return to fine form. It’s totally encouraging:

Zito is off to one of the best starts of a 13-year career that has been mostly downhill since he came to the Giants in 2007. His first four starts have produced a 1.67 ERA, and opposing hitters have a .186 batting average. He is 1-0, having pitched a shutout against the Rockies in Colorado.

The article says this could be the product of Zito being happily married and now having a personal catcher in Hector Sanchez that has him pitching like he’s back in Oakland again.

Which is great — who doesn’t want to be happy? — but it’s not like we haven’t seen Zito have nice starts like this before.  Remember early May 2010?

Not only is Zito now 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA this season, he has a 2.38 ERA in 21 starts dating back to last year’s All-Star break.

He ended that season watching the Giants win the World Series as a spectator. Then he spent much of 2011 on the DL, out of the rotation and being rumored as a candidate to be released.

This happens with Zito. And with all players who aren’t all that good.  Sure, I want him to be successful because I still remember him when he had Cy Young form and liked that an awful lot, but we can’t read too much into the small sample sizes and early season success.  To do so is to get suckered.

  1. syracuse451 - May 1, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    It’s easy to have such a shiny start when you have a .188 BABIP, a 91.4 % strand-rate and a 7.3 % HR/FB ratio. That nice ERA hides a 4.02 FIP

    • jwbiii - May 1, 2012 at 11:47 PM

      But a back of the rotation starter with a 4.02 FIP is a very good thing.

  2. marklar1025 - May 1, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    wow – im shocked. Another hater article written about the Giants by Mr Calcaterra.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      So which part of the article is inaccurate or unfair? Or is it just that we’re not supposed to point out potential issues in the team you like?

      • Gobias Industries - May 1, 2012 at 2:27 PM

        Wait, didn’t we already do this earlier today with stlouis1baseball and the Cardinals?

        Can’t we all just agree that Craig hates all our favorite teams (and Chief Wahoo) equally?

      • wlschneider09 - May 1, 2012 at 2:53 PM

        Nope, I’m not on board. Craig loves the braves, God only knows why. And nobody could possibly hate the Twins, could they? They just suck so badly. When he says bad things about my team they are usually understatements.

      • jwbiii - May 1, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        Craig’s feelings for the Braves seem to oscillate between love, frustration, and mild annoyance.

      • opshuns - May 1, 2012 at 3:15 PM

        “To do so is to get suckered.”

        So how do you know we are going to get suckered? Maybe, just maybe Barry puts together a whole year of decent baseball. It is possible. Oh yeah, I am angry the Giants signed Zito for any amount of money but Pujols seems to quell my anger..

      • Max Power - May 1, 2012 at 4:39 PM

        Craig, Don’t you realize that every time you write critically about the Giants (or more accurately, about reporting about the Giants), that somewhere there’s a Phillies fan who is not getting wound up?

      • marklar1025 - May 1, 2012 at 7:43 PM

        never once did I claim this article as inaccurate or unfair.. and as a Giants fan I honestly feel no desire or need to defend Zito. I merely point out your affinity to only write negative items about the Giants, whether it be deserved or just spinning a positive story around to the other side. I understand – it’s cooler being negative.

    • heyblueyoustink - May 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      “It’s totally encouraging”
      -paragraph 1

      “Which is great — who doesn’t want to be happy?”
      -middle paragraph

      “Sure, I want him to be successful because I still remember him when he had Cy Young form and liked that an awful lot”
      -final paragraph

      That’s an awful lot of love for the pile of poop you accuse is there.

      • skerney - May 1, 2012 at 3:09 PM

        “It’s totally encouraging” – Craig is talking about the article, not Zito.

        “Which is great, who doesn’t want to be happy.” is followed by the word “but…”

        “Sure, I want him to succeed because I still remember him when he had CY Young form and liked that an awful lot” – is followed by Craig saying (possibly correctly) that Zito isn’t “all that good” and believing in his good start is “to be suckered.”

        Thats the poop.

        Is Craig wrong? Most likely not. But what use is a post that tears down a man who is trying his best to succeed? Fine, Zito isn’t worth the money he is being paid. But to crap on an article that praises a guy who is up when he was so down should be beneath Craig. If someone said something similar about Jason Heyward bouncing back from injury, I’m sure Craig would be all over it.

      • Craig Calcaterra - May 1, 2012 at 3:28 PM

        Because the article itself ignores the fact that Zito has been down this road before and has cratered. Because it honestly wants to sell the notion that a new catcher and a new wife have solved what have proven to be serious and lasting problems with his pitching.

        Look, it’s not polite to say what I say about Zito. But it’s not my job to play cheerleader. It’s my job to think critically about baseball, and that extends to what amount to puff pieces that want us to think that everything is gonna be all bright in the future when there is no special reason to think that’s the case.

      • Gobias Industries - May 1, 2012 at 3:50 PM

        “Because it honestly wants to sell the notion that a…new wife have solved what have proven to be serious and lasting problems with his pitching.”

        To be fair, have you seen his wife? Even I’d probably be good for two or three Cy Young Awards if my wife looked like that.

      • tomemos - May 1, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        “But what use is a post that tears down a man who is trying his best to succeed?”

        ?? What use is baseball, period? Aren’t we all here to entertain ourselves? And isn’t part of that entertainment trying to predict who’s going to do well and who isn’t?

  3. mendozaline215 - May 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Reblogged this on The Mendoza Line and commented:
    He’s a notoriously up and down pitcher. From 2007-2011, Zito posted a 43-61 record, a 4.55 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. He showed flashes of brilliance in patches during that time, but my guess is he’s due to flounder again sometime soon.

    • atxjustin - May 1, 2012 at 3:38 PM

      Dude, nobody cares that you reposted this on your lame blog. If you have a comment to add to the discourse here, great. But dude, seriously, stop it. It’s lame.

      • Gobias Industries - May 1, 2012 at 3:43 PM

        Recommented this right here:
        Dude, nobody cares that you reposted this on your lame blog. If you have a comment to add to the discourse here, great. But dude, seriously, stop it. It’s lame.

      • Matt DeFaveri - May 2, 2012 at 8:21 AM

        Wish I could get as irritated at people over reblogging something as you do.

  4. skerney - May 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    While you were busy crapping on Zito’s wedding cake, you neglected to see that the article you quote is from the San Jose Mercury News, not the Chronicle.

  5. Ben - May 1, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    Jeez, I didn’t know Zito had this many defenders. He’s cut his walk rate. That’s great. He’s still striking out 4/9IP. Not exactly encouraging going forward.

    • SOBEIT - May 1, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      Defending Zito is like defending the younger brother…It’s ok for me to mess with him but not somoene else. Or maybe it’s like rooting for the Warriors…we got 2007, but that was about it for decades. It’s what we have and after years of booing, I can now only hope he does adquately because we are not eating his contract this year…and most likely not even next year. Wheeler is gone…the farm needs another year or two to produce aother starter or two. Who knows if we can keep Lincecum on the next contract. But finally, we have a chance to win every game 1-5…it really is just up to the hitting and clean defense which has been unually suspect this year. A stronger offense can hide some bad starts, but a bad offense will only heighten our dismay with Zito because our offense could not hide his bad starts in previous years. Let’s hope that Zito can keep going strong and that our offense finally clicks because our division is so much tougher than last year. Dodgers, Dbacks and Rockies will be tough this year and the Padres seem to find ways to win against us when on paper we should sweep every time.

  6. nineroutsider - May 1, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Let’s check in again on September 1st, that’s where I am at with Zito. He needs to do this for an entire season for me to think he’s got it turned around. The bottom could fall out at any time. Not hating, just looking at his track record. Hope he stays on course, but my expectations are still low. Go Giants!

  7. The Dangerous Mabry - May 1, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    I think Craig isn’t so much crapping on Zito as he is crapping on writers who so badly want to embrace a narrative that they don’t really worry about whether or not their story has a meaningful basis in reality.

    And it’s worth noting that writers raising expectations for a guy like Zito based on an early start aren’t helping him when he has a season that’s on the good side of mediocre. Setting people up to expect Cy Young performance is only going to leave them disappointed in what could otherwise turn out to be a serviceable season.

    • skerney - May 1, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      Nowhere in the article does Steward write that we should expect a Cy Young from Zito. Second, Show me a baseball beat writer who doesn’t write feel good fluff about the local team over the course of a 162 game season.There are too many narratives to mine to just write game recaps. Craig knows that articles like this one are the reason ALL of us read our teams local paper or website or baseball blog. We want to feel good about our favorite team. To single this one out as looney is just silly. Go to the Minnesota Twins market and I’m sure there is some web content that is holding out for hope or a bounce back year for Mauer. Should I believe the Twins are going to compete? No, but I’m not going to call out a local beat writer because he writes that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That is a small minded mentality in my opinion.

      • skerney - May 1, 2012 at 3:55 PM

        I regret using the term “small minded”. Implicit in that phrase is a connotation i did not intend. Petty, or trivial is a better suited term. Let’s not be insulting.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 1, 2012 at 4:08 PM

        reason ALL of us read our teams local paper

        haha newspapers. Don’t come in here with make believe shit like leprachauns, unicorns or newspapers.

  8. skerney - May 1, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    I’m not one of those guys who takes devices to the can. My phone stays in my pocket.

  9. micker716 - May 1, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    So it’s OK to dismiss Zito’s start, but Braun’s fast start (“he’s right back to MVP form”) is proof that there is no such thing as line-up protection.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - May 1, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      There is of course a substantial difference between the two: Braun’s performance is in line with how he’s been playing in the recent past, whereas Zito has had an Pril that represents a substantial trendbreak. It’s generally a safer bet that a player will play to his established performance standards than it is to think someone will have a great change. That said, it’s fair to say that Braun’s April is also a relatively small sample size.

      • micker716 - May 2, 2012 at 1:12 AM

        Great job burying the lead. That’s the point: It’s a too small of a sample size to be relevant in either case.

  10. SOBEIT - May 1, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Wow, so much feedback for Zito. Interesting.

    Look, most Giants fans have come to the realization that Zito is the highest paid 5th starter in all of baseball, I believe…if not, sorry for that decision which is worse than the Zito contract. But we can’t dump him…yet. So all we can do is hope that he doesn’t throw a stinker up there and eat up the bullpen who has to cover 6+ innings for him. A good start is better than a bad one. Can he keep it up? Uhhh time will tell or some bs like that. I just want him to keep us in games like he has and we shall see if we can covert 10-15 of his starts into wins.

    At the end of the day, we just want him to be like Moyer…change of pace and still effective. What we have gotten so far is great. And fan support will hopefully fuel a few more wins at home….rather than the boos that could be heard across the bay. I want to support Barry because he is really our only hope to lock down the 5th spot. Our farm is thin in starters. We traded Jonathan Sanchez and most importantly, we traded our most ready farm pitcher for a rental of Beltran. So this is the bed we have to sleep in and so far, the bed bugs have stayed away. A decent Barry and the rest of the dominating staff is scary.

    Lincecum is getting back to form. The other 3 are still studs. Zito is just the cherry on top. But don’t be fooled, if we have a post season rotation, Barry will still be watching on tv.

  11. afirst916 - May 1, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Maybe we should go back and make all of his pitches were strikes

  12. nodaclu - May 2, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    At least he’s writing about your teams, even if it’s negative.

    I’m an A’s, Raiders and Sacramento Kings fan. Try living in that hell for awhile. Decrepit stadiums, bad teams, horrible ownership and no media coverage (and when there is any it’s usually in a mocking/joking manner).

    Most people would rather be hated than ignored. And most fans would rather read ANYTHING about their teams, than be relegated to an occasional “oh, they haven’t been contracted yet?” comment.

  13. obsessivegiantscompulsive - May 29, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    While you are mostly correct with what you wrote, you, like a lot of media miss the point about Zito.

    Yes, his contract sucks, he has never earned it nor look likely to ever earn it in any individual season. I don’t think the fans need to hear another rendition on this same, well worn theme.

    What most people miss is that 1) it don’t matter how much he is paid anymore, it is done, he will be paid, nothing will ever change that, and 2) when Zito has performed for the Giants he’s been around average except for two seasons, 2008 and 2011, his injury season, as his ERA+ is basically 100 in the other 4 seasons (including this season).

    Personally, I forgive him 2011. He was involved in a massive car wreck that he literally was seconds away from death or at least massive injuries. I’m still amazed that the medical staff allowed him to pitch his next scheduled start without any extended rest or recovery time between the accident and his next start. I’m no doctor, but I have to think that a guy who had never been on the DL before in his life must have had some internal injuries or body parts that were extended or stretched more than usual in the accident, which a normal human being would have healed sitting at their office job, but which a professional athlete is putting extra pressure on his body.

    Even if you do not buy this hypothesis, what can’t be denied is that he started out pitching well both times in 2012, but just before getting put on the DL, had bad starts that were possibly indicative that his body was starting to break down.

    If you want to go by sabermetrics, an average player today earns around $8-10M, so it is not like the Giants are not getting good value from him playing for the team. He simply is not creating the value for which he is paid, but that is water under the bridge at this point. Getting rid of Zito now is like throwing away the other half of your bottle of spilled milk, just because you spilled half does not mean you should throw away what good value is left.

    Even if you want to go by ERA, Zito had an ERA in the low 4’s in 2009 and 2010, and there are not a lot of starting pitchers who can give you roughly 200 IP and a low 4 ERA. In 2009, there were only 25 starters who had a better ERA than Zito who were qualified for the ERA crown. With 16 NL teams, that means if these pitchers were allocated one each to each team, he would have a been a team’s #2 starter. In 2010, he was 34th, placing him as one of the top #3 starters in the NL. Yes, not worth $18M, but still pretty darn good period, and he’s doing that as our #4/5 starter, which is a huge advantage for the Giants.

    That’s what should be written about Zito’s performance, not the same old, same old, rubric about “players who aren’t that good”. Again, we all know that he’s not performing at the level of his contract. Still, he has been productive for the Giants in recent seasons and look to be productive again for the Giants. At this point, that is worth something more than an article that blasts him for his salary.

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