Sunday, April 27, 2008

Zito Ready?

I'll admit that Zito hasn't given much reason for optimism, if hoping for a league average pitching performance on a big salary is optimism, but I still have some hope.

Of course, it is still early season, small samples, yada yada, but while he has had some improvements in saber terms, in baseball terms, 0-5 is a pretty stark number, wins do have some meaning in the real world, if not the sabermetric world.

But I have some hope for this start. He was improving with each start, struggling with his new mechanics, but seemingly improving. So a stepback should be expected at some point, plus Arizona is an extreme offensive park, so that contributed to his blowup as well.

The encouraging thing I heard from one of the announcers is that he had a real nice side outing with the coaches where he was locating great - which has been his problem all season long, not throwing to his spots - so I expect to see his best outing of the season today, what with it being SF (neutral to pitcher's park), the nice side outing, plus general progress during the season.

Still, a big disappointment, given how well he pitched at the end of last season.

Go Giants!

14 comments:

  1. I have to admire your ability to find a way to be optamistic. That said, Zito is proving to be a head case that seems very unlikely to ever be able to deal with the expectations of his $126M contract. I don't think it is ever going to be any better for the Giants then last year. Sooner or later we are going to have to bit the bullet and figure out a Mike Hampton like trade.

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  2. Interesting. I think I come down between your two positions. I think it is amazing how awful Zito has been this year. I didn't see today's game, so I don't have the first hand knowledge of where he is at now. My recollection is that he is always awful in April. So, I think we won't really know whee he is at until the end of this year. Mind you, I am not saying we must wait until then, just that it may take that long to know if he is really done or not.
    I would think he should develop another pitch, say a 2 seam or cut or split finger fastball, something that moves and gives hitters something to think about besides his fairly straight fastball. He might also conaider throwing more strikes, particularly down in the zone, altho his style has been to throw high FBs and his big curve - which is why I think another pitch, one that would utilize the low part of the zone, would be helpful. Even without that tho, I think he has never been particularly effective until late April or May (anyone want to look up the splits?). So, I don't think we make any long term dicisions until the ASB at the earliest.

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  3. How could you not have enough evidence that Zito is a colossal bust? What more do you need to see?

    Bottom line is that he cannot get ML hitters out consisently any more. It's batting practice out there and it's not getting any better. Even Boulderhead is admitting that something has to change...they can't keep running him out there with the same results. It's hard to DFA a guy when you owe him $126M over the next umpteen years, so look for a move to the bullpen "to work out issues" or a possible elongated DL stint.

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  4. >> He might also consider throwing more strikes, particularly down in the zone, altho his style has been to throw high FBs and his big curve - which is why I think another pitch, one that would utilize the low part of the zone, would be helpful.

    Easier said that done. Zito's control has gotten progressively worse. His current BB% is 10.6% (small sample size caveat), and if he stays at that percentage over the full season, it would be a career high for him. The average BB% for a MLB pitcher tends to be around 8%, anything over 10-11% and you're getting into trouble.

    He's pitching like Jamie Moyer but minus the control. I'm having a hard time seeing how he could ever be league average unless his control takes a big step forward. He's never been a control pitcher, so I think his prospects are dimming.

    I think Zito is smart and if anyone could reinvent themselves it might be him, but it's a lot harder than just throwing "more strikes" because he doesn't have that ability right now to put his pitches where he wants them and he might not ever have that ability again.

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  5. Well, obviously, I have a big boulderhead too...

    I really thought the signs pointed to some improvement, but it was about as bad as it can get yesterday.

    I think you all have a piece of the Zito puzzle speced out. Headcase. Lack of command. Over-thinker.

    I heard on the radio that Zito is constantly tinkering with his mechanics, even after his Cy Young season. Maybe someone should just put together video of that season and he can watch it can get back that muscle memory. At least for now, until he figures out his next best thing.

    Sometimes an over-thinker has to hit bottom before he gets over himself, and just let his natural abilities take over. Whether this is the nadir for Zito, only he can know.

    I still think that he has something left in him, he had sub-4 ERAs for much of his career in the DH-AL.

    The problem I think is that he is thinking when he is pitching, instead of just throwing naturally like he used to. When you throw thinking into the physical process of throwing, it creates a hiccup, which results in the dreck that he has given us since he started pitching for us.

    The fact that he could throw OK in his side sessions but then is totally off when in a game seems to confirm that for me, I've been thinking this for a while, but I think the signs are clear.

    It is like when Ed Whitson couldn't pitch in NY for the Yankees. Or Gary Alexander (I think that's his name), a former catcher for us, suddenly couldn't throw the ball back to the pitcher anymore. I recall another former catcher of the Giants doing that too, an offensive type, he might have been with the Mets when it all went downhill.

    Then there is that secondbaseman, - was it Chuck Knoblaugh? - who suddenly couldn't throw to firstbase anymore.

    That's the beauty and pain of sports right there, the "that's why they play the games" mantra: humans are playing the games and we don't know how humans will react all the time, whether they can rise to the challenge, or fall to their human frailties.

    Obviously, the Zito situation is the "agony of defeat" segment of the ABC Sports world, where we see someone fail colossally at something in sports, then we get to see whether he finds redemption or not. Hampton obviously has not. And it's not looking good for Zito right now.

    He used to talk a good game of wanting to be the ace, the grizzled vet who can dispense advice to the young'uns, but that appears to be all talk now. Hopefully he can find himself at some point, it could take going through waivers (nobody's touching that contract) down to the minors to get himself straight, though that could also push him over the edge and he might never recover mentally.

    Part of the problem probably is because he doesn't feel like he can be himself here. Mychal Urban was talking about this over the weekend, Zito normally comes into spring training with the A's and do wacky things like change his whole pitching motion, and that would be no big deal, but with the Giants, Righetti reads him the riot act and he had to tuck his tail between his legs and play nice with the coach and his new overlords. He's probably been second guessing himself since then.

    But once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't always get him back in. I don't envy the Giants job right now. How do you get a pitcher to stop thinking while throwing? Especailly if he is an over-thinker?

    He's probably pushing himself a lot this season too, because everyone knows that Cain and Lincecum are the true aces of the staff (and now Sanchez is starting to look like #3), and he doesn't want to look bad in comparison. Everybody has a pride in their skills and don't want to be shown up that badly, even if not on purpose.

    So it will be interesting times for Zito, fans like me cheering him on, other fans ready to throw the rotten tomatoes.

    Because, really, at this point, any Giants fan has to pray that it works out because it could mean hell for the franchise for the next six seasons, eatting that huge a salary. It was bad enough eatting first Nen's salary, then Alfonzo, the Benitez. But unless all our young position prospects suddenly become above average hitters, Zito's contract is really going to hurt the team unless he can at least pitch like an average starting pitcher. And he's nothing like that this season.

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  6. And while we are on the contract subject, just who is responsible for handing out all these bad contracts (Nen, Benard, Alfonzo, Benitez, Winn, Morris, Roberts, Aurilia, Zito, Durham, Vizquel....)?

    Could it be the guy you continue to say has been doing an OK job as GM and deserved a shot to rebuild the club and get a 2 year extension? Are you beginning to see a trend here?

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  7. I still think Sabean deserved a two year contract extension and a chance to do something with the pitching HE built up here.

    Many if not most of the contracts you listed were ones where the Giants went out and got the best player available on the free agent market. Ultimately, it's the ownership that must live up to those acquisitions, in my opinion, because it was their imperative to do those moves, not necessarily Sabean's. I've made my feelings clear on the ownership since the 2003 season: I'm very appreciative that they saved the Giants for San Francisco, but they need to bring in more money or sell out to a richer owner.

    Let me put it this way: if your boss told you to do a move that you thought was unwise, and you told him so, but your boss insisted, and there are not that many of your jobs to go around where you can say "screw you" and go to a competitor, most people would do the move and pray for the best. That's the way I view Sabean, he did what the ownership wanted.

    Else, he could have gotten Vlad (his personal issues - rumor had it that he didn't like Felipe Alou after all - aside) or at least a better RF than Hammonds/Tucker if the owners would have given him the money that they had lying somewhere that they were willing to give up to sign Greg Maddux but not give up to get a better RF, which we needed more.

    The only trend I see here is that you only like to focus on the negative.

    Well, anybody in any job long enough will have a lot of deals that don't necessarily put you in the best light.

    If you want to carp about all those bad contracts, then you have to acknowledge his changing in one season a team that was last and lost 94 games, into a division winner, competing for the division title for 8 straight seasons, until the penalty for having such success - a poor draft position in the first round - made the farm system weak in talent. You also would have to acknowledge that the Giants Today have one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, Zito or no Zito, and plenty more pitching talent coming up the system in Sosa, Bumgarner, Alderson, and Bucardo. You would also have to acknowledge that the team today, while not a title contender, is much more competitive than most of the negative fans had been foreseeing.

    I have been excited by the club I've been following this season, as frustrating as some losses have been, but that's the thing with going with youth, you are going to see a mix of excitement and frustration. That was clear to me last season in the games that Bonds sat out, and it continues this season. I have been enjoying the ups of the young players. If you aren't, well, that's on you.

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  8. Oh, I get it now......Sabean is only responsible for the few good moves that have been made during his tenure. Magowan is responsible for all the dumb moves and plunging the organization into a talent abyss. I should have seen that sooner.

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  9. Well, if you want to bring the discussion down to the level of a two year old, yeah, we can make it a black and white situation if that would make you happy.

    Obviously, no situation is black and white, he has made mistakes or I would want him to stay for life. He has made enough good decisions that I want to see how this plays out.

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  10. Honest question

    You always hear that the Zito deal was "managements decision" but I've never seen one link to prove this theory, ever.

    Any one have any evidence?

    And even if was true, it's Sabean's job to deal with management, to bridge that gap. He should be very interested in doing the best he can, even if management is breathing down his neck, because all the moves get stamped on his resume, not managements. It's his job, or future job, on the line.

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  11. And Zito goes to the bullpen!!! What a joke. He should be embarassed.

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  12. Hello Martin - Do you notice when things are going sort of decently for the giants, you don't see Boof around?
    Anyway, after last night's multi baserunning fiascos, it occurs to me that this is a skill that does in fact take some learning, take some time. This is really the first year of this strategy for the giants, so I imagine they need some time to see the pitcher's moves around the league and to see the different teams strategies. I would, therefore, predict that the overall run game and its percentage of success and exhibition of smart, savvy decisions will increase noticably in the second half. That being said, Winn really made a poor decision, even tho the ball was hit (just barely) behind him. He didn't seem to realize how hard it was hit and how close he still was to 2b base. On Velez' pickoff, I thought as he lunged back to the bag, his foot, as he is trying to push off, just gave way, or more precisely, the infield dirt gave way and his spikes just skidded thru the dirt rather than catching, giving him a solid platform to push off of. Assuming that is true, I think it has more to do with the IF than with technique. Lastly, I just wish the could give Lewis a class in baserunning and force him to memorize the 'rules.' That particular play (runner on 3d breaking for home upon throw to 2d) is a very low percentage play and usually results in the runner being thrown out unless there is a weak armed middle IF making the catch at 2b. That was a very bad decision. So, I hope this all is 'learning experience,' and the learning will lead to sounder decisions in the future. Despite last nights debacles, I think the run game is better than it was 3 weeks ago.

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  13. Oh no, allfrank, you said the "B" word! :^)

    I didn't see the play, but Krukow on the KNBR morning show said that Winn did what he was suppose to do.

    I agree about Lewis, but the same could be said about Ellison too when he came up, so I don't know what good the base-running instructors have been all these years (I think it was Darren Lewis for a while, which explains things, I don't think he was ever very successful in SB%, whereas Roberts has been in the 80-90% range) in the minors.

    That's why I've been so adamant about keeping Roberts around. This is perfect now, we can let him travel with the team while he heals, dispensing advice to the young guys. Yes, very expensive coach, but given that speed is the mantra and the guys are coming up together as pals, any lessons he can pass on (that he got from Maury Wills) will network from there across the Giants organization. I would love it if he would become a coach in our system after he retires.

    Yeah, people like to complain about the Giants early going but the fact is that there are a lot of young players on the team, making young player mistakes. They like to complain about going with the old guys, but god-forbid that they young guys act young and make mistakes.

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  14. I'm always around, Frank. I just don't feel the need to comment on every single bit of minutiae that is out there. Additionally, if you took the time to actaully read any of my posts, they have been very consistent. I challenge you to find a post that I've made that criticizes the playing of the young players and the mistakes that they have made and will make....it's just not there. What you will find are posts which challenge the premise that Sabean has this organization on the right track and posts which evaluate talent in over-optimistic terms.

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