Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Zito = Zero

I'm watching the matchup of Zito vs. Webb and it's not pretty. Sure, the score is 2-1 Snakes but it won't be for long, in all likelihood (edit: Byrnes just hit a ground-rule double to center to make it 3-1 and a flare to center right after makes it 4-1. Zito gets saved by an amazing diving catch by Velez to end the inning). Webb is nasty as usual; his sinker is one of the dirties pitches I've ever seen. It almost looks like a breaking ball. It falls vertically a ton and he creates separation from his actual breaking pitches by about 5-8 mph, which for him is plenty. It's different from Wang's because it's a bit slower but seems to break farther. I'll do a bit of looking at Pitch f-x later to see if that's actually true.

Anyhow, this post is about the corpse of Barry Zito. Not so long ago, he was a Cy Young caliber pitcher. He was in the low 90's with his fastball, had good command, and could throw a devastating 12-6 curveball for strikes or bury it out of the zone at will. He also had a decent changeup.

Today, his fastball topped out at around 85 mph and he had little control of it. Early in the game, he was missing up in the zone with his fastball and occasionally left his change up in the zone as well. His curveball looked fine, freezing a few batters and inducing some harmless pop-ups as guys went chasing it down. However, it is less effective now because he is usually behind in the count so guys can simply take the pitch and wait for a better offering. Also, it was not being called a strike with any regularity so Zito had to look elsewhere to get ahead.

His mechanics looked fine to me. He strides well, gets his body under him, and keeps his head steady. He firms up his glove side well and doesn't seem to do anything funky with his arm action. The ball simply has no life to it.

I have no idea if he's hurt. It doesn't seem like he is, to be honest. His velocity simply vanished. I have heard that pitchers can lose velocity if their tendons and ligaments get stretched out over time. Sometimes Tommy John's surgery can help correct that because the new ligament is tighter. That may be the cause of Zito's velocity loss but his loss of command and control is even more puzzling. He simply cannot succeed, even in the NL, without velocity and/or plus command and control.

The Zito contract was a mistake when it was made. However, it looks even worse now that the Giants are clearly the worst team in the majors. It would be virtually impossible to trade Zito without swallowing nearly all of his contract. Meanwhile, he is averaging $18 million a year for a team with a payroll around $77 million. That's over 23% of their total payroll going to one player who is now significantly below average.

Now, tell me again why Brian Sabean has a job? Anyone?

1 comment:

Adam said...

Well, it looks like Zito will be the most expensive middle relief pitcher in the Majors.