Barry Zito is a complex and unique individual, but within the game of baseball he is ultimately a left-handed pitcher with a good curveball and several productive seasons under his belt. Now in his fourth year with the Giants after seven stellar campaigns with the across-the-bay A‘s, Zito is 6-2, 3.15 in 12 starts.
David Laurila: What is your image — how do fans see you?
Barry Zito: I don’t really worry about how I’m seen. I’m not going to be able to control people’s perceptions, so I just try to be respectful and professional.
DL: What about as a pitcher?
BZ: I don’t know. You’d have to ask people that have seen me. I just try to work hard and stick to my game plan. I would define myself as someone who is constantly trying to get better and is never satisfied, really, with past achievements. I’m always striving for new heights.
DL: When fans hear your name, they often think “curveball.” Are you a lot more than just that?
BZ: Sure. I mean, it just depends on the level of education of whomever you’re talking about. But yeah, there are a lot of attributes that I have to my game. A curveball is one of them and probably the most flashy.
DL: Do you think that fans understand the nuts and bolts of pitching, or do they mostly just look at the numbers?
BZ: I think that, for the most part, it’s the way that I would be a fan of football or basketball. I look at numbers and feel that I have a knowledge of the game — say, football — but at the end of the day, I never played football at the highest level, so I can’t really ever say that I know how it is to be out there. But I think that if people have played baseball in the past, they do have a base root of knowledge.
DL: What do numbers mean to you on the mound?
BZ: Numbers are indicative of certain things, but it’s just more of how I feel out there. Usually, when you feel good throwing the ball, the numbers are going to follow you. I do want to keep my walks down and keep the hits down below the innings pitched. I obviously want to keep my ERA down. But I’ve never actually done anything based on numbers; I do it based on feel.
DL: To what extent do you pitch to hitters‘ weaknesses?
BZ: We have a knowledge, as major-league pitchers, for the most part, of what guys’ tendencies are, but I think it’s always most productive to stick with your strengths. That’s what got us here.
DL: Has your approach changed over time?
BZ: I’ve vacillated here and there, but my approach has been pretty consistent throughout my entire career as far as just going out there and focusing on what I want to do and making small adjustments over the course of the game.