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On Monday, Barry Zito announced that he would be the last of the Big Three to go quietly into that good night. In honor of his retirement, and to look back at his long, memorable career, let's review 15 years of BP Annual comments about him, as he transitioned from Cy Young Award winner on the east side of the bay, to an unmovable contract on the west side.

Year Comment
2014 The Barry Zito Era ended not with a whimper, but with a long, long series of whimpers, seven seasons of whimpers. For $126 million, Zito delivered the Giants about 2 WARP, total, and he saved his worst for last. And yet: "As crazy as this sounds, if I had to do it over again, I would have done what we did to sign Barry Zito," Brian Sabean said in October. Zito did stay healthy—2011 was the anomaly—and his benefactors did win two World Series during his contract. The Giants are still paying Zito a $7 million buyout on his 2014 option, which can buy quite a few … well, quite a few of anything Barry might want, except for another chance.
2013 While Zito's back-of-the-baseball-card stats last year were much better than in 2011, he was still a below-league-average starter. Zito doesn't miss many bats, but he reduced his walk rate to its lowest mark since 2004, which Zito fans will remember as his last really good year. He was at his stingiest with the free passes after the All-Star break, with a 2.31 BB/9. In a postseason of surprises, Zito's stellar pitching may have been the biggest shocker. He kept the Giants season alive by throwing a gem and winning Game Five of the NLCS, and followed that up by winning Game One of the World Series. His contract remains a massive overpay, but he'll always have his 2012 postseason heroics to hang his hat on.
2012 For the first four years of Zito's contract, he at least kept ticking, starting 131 games as an overpriced, league-average pitcher. But 2011 was the year he started to smell like rot. The strikeout rate was a career low; for those with at least 50 innings, his 10 homers in 53 innings were the seventh-worst rate in baseball and his FIP was the sixth-worst. For the first time as a Giant, he also dealt with stints on the DL—at least one of them looked like a phantom injury, but the ankle injury in August was legit. He asked for, and got, a shot in the bullpen late in the season, but he doesn't do any one thing well enough to be worth a roster spot as a reliever. Remember that disastrous contract the Dodgers gave Juan Pierre a few years ago? The Giants still owe Zito more than that—$46 million over the next two years.
2011 Thanks to the arrival of Bumgarner, Zito had the dubious distinction of becoming the first man paid more than $18 million by a playoff team to be left off that team’s playoff roster despite being fully healthy. It’s not that Zito was bad. He actually sustained the gains he made in 2009 without much additional help from his defense, which—if Sanchez suffers a likely correction—could get him back up to fourth in the rotation’s pecking order in the coming season. However, he was clearly the team’s worst starter down the stretch, going 1-8 with a 6.66 ERA and just two quality starts in his final 11 games (one of them a relief loss). But hey, it’s just another three years and $64.5 million before the Giants will have his contract off the books!
2010 Zito's reachievement of mediocrity came with all sorts of nice little side benefits: his best walk rate as a Giant, his highest strikeout rate since his early Cy-winning days, with symptoms like achieving a career high in first-pitch strikes and getting out ahead of people, all while showing better velocity. That said, he wasn't getting people to swing and miss more often, he just got a higher percentage of strikes looking; we'll see if NL batters get used to this more efficient Zito, but his second half was stronger than his first. If he keeps it up, he might at least distract people from a compensation package that makes him an honorary investment banker. At least he has mastery of all the odds and ends you like to find in a fourth starter, holding runners well, even bunting effectively.
2009 After declining in each of the previous three seasons, Zito’s strikeout rate held steady at 6 K/9IP last year, but he compensated for that by posting a career-high walk rate, which produced a miserable 1.18 K/BB and contributed to his career-high ERA and career-low innings total. Despite visions of a 2011 rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Alderson, the Giants still owe Zito $101.5 million on a contract that’s guaranteed through 2013. They might want to start looking for a Mike Hampton-style trade to rid themselves of their mistake, though given how the Hampton trade worked out for the Braves, they’re unlikely to find any takers. With Randy Johnson on board, Zito has become the Giants’ fifth starter and third-best lefty starter in just the third year of his deal, which is quickly going from bad idea to disaster. If you want to grasp at some very thin straws of hope, Zito did shave more than a run off of his ERA in the second half and pitched quite well in September.
2008 The killer thing about the seven-year, $119 million contract the Giants lavished on Zito isn't just the price tag for a pitcher who isn't an ace. No, the punch to the gut is that six months after the contract was executed, Zito was the number-three starter on the team, and has no shot of ranking higher in the rotation for the duration of the deal. Having a durable innings-eater is a benefit; it's just not worth breaking the bank when the strength of your organization is two young starting pitchers who might be true number-ones. It's not all bad: Zito's durability and good career start combine to make him among the next in line-behind former teammate Tim Hudson and essentially even with Roy Oswalt-to make a run at 300 wins.
2007 Zito has become the mound version of Derek Jeter: Overrated by some, underrated by many others. Zito started 34 or 35 games in each of the last six seasons, and his ERA has been well below the league average in five of those six. Zito would be the best or second-best starter on a fair number of teams. That said, his curveball isn`t what it once was, and he certainly has benefited from his home ballpark and, in recent seasons, Oakland`s solid defense behind him. Zito signed a seven-year deal with the Giants in December, with a club option for 2014. While it`s clear what Zito was thinking–stay in the Bay Area while still making lots of money–it`s less obvious what the Giants were trying to accomplish by adorning their aging roster with this good but hardly destiny-altering pitcher.
2006 Zito was probably overrated for some period of time on the basis of a well-cultivated public image and an ERA that was a little ahead of his peripherals, but he`s a very valuable pitcher. He helped his cause by adding a two-seamer toward the middle of the 2004 season, a pitch that doesn`t overwhelm anyone but allows him to generate a few extra double plays, something that had been a problem in the past. For some better sense of context, that 30.8 VORP projects him to rate as the 32nd best pitcher in the majors next year, so he`s just on the fringe between being a plus #2 and a true #1.
2005 There's no point in complaining about run support—Zito simply had his worst year yet. The expected won-lost record from how he pitched would have been 11-13; he actually finished 11-11. Maybe he has too many distractions, or maybe he creates them. Maybe the league's seen his bag of tricks often enough. He'll still flash that knee-buckling bender now and again, but it's been two years since has been able to snap those off for strikes at will. Vida Blue didn't age that well either, and he had more talent than Zito. Still, PECOTA seems to like his odds of taking a step back in the right direction, probably in part because he made up lost ground in striking people out.
2004 He didn't win the Cy Young in 2003, but he still pitched very well. Analysts are more than a little worried about the trend in his K rate. Zito walks a few guys, has a tendency to throw a fair number of flyballs, and he's thrown a pretty big number of innings over the last three years. Some interesting metrics for Zito over the last three seasons: Year K/9 GB/FB 2001 8.61 0.85 2002 7.14 0.74 2003 5.67 0.89 That K rate's gone from among the league's best to below league average, and it's not as if Zito, who works to change the eye-plane of the hitter from high to low, has suddenly become Chad Bradford. A high K rate is an indicator of a low future ERA. Zito's performance record is certainly outstanding, but there is a non-negligible risk of a precipitous decline. PECOTA sees regression on the way.
2003 Left-hander with broad repertoire and a curveball that sends lefties screaming into the night. Growing up, left-handed hitters of the future will be threatened with the appearance of Barry’s curveball unless they eat their Candied Curried Brussel Sprouts. There’s nothing here not to like, but there could be some improvement in control. Zito’s the best pitcher on the staff, and there’s no indication that that’s going to change any time soon. In the second half of the season, Zito was Koufaxy, posting a 1.92 ERA. Nasty.
2002 Somewhere, Jim Thome's knees just buckled. One of the A's three young guns, Zito relies on working his reasonable fastball in and out, then dropping a positively unhittable curveball as an out pitch. He changes speeds well but does so primarily to improve his fastball. Nothing in his record points anywhere near fluke; he will likely be one of the top five left-handers in baseball for the next several years and will get the concomitant media attention for allegedly being a flake.
2001 Barry Zito doesn’t have great velocity, but he’s smart, even-keeled, and he’s got an incredible overhand curve. He also wasn’t exactly your typical rookie in that he’d already received some coaching from A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson (as a consultant) before he was even drafted. Watching him carve up the Yankees in Game Four of the ALDS was probably the highlight of the A’s season. He may have a rough patch in the first half of 2001, but he’s in the right organization to break through it.
2000 The A's 1999 first-rounder was named the top pitching prospect in the California League after only eight starts. Zito racked up three 16-strikeout games for USC in the Pac-10, then rocketed through the California and Texas leagues before pitching for Vancouver in the PCL playoffs and Triple-A World Series. He has outstanding command of a great curve and change-up. He can get predictable with his curve, but he's as advanced as a college pitcher gets and has a shot to win a spot in the rotation this spring.
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apbadogs
10/20
"It's not all bad: Zito's durability and good career start combine to make him among the next in line-behind former teammate Tim Hudson and essentially even with Roy Oswalt-to make a run at 300 wins." Always fun to look back at comments like this and realize how ridiculously off base they are.