06 May 2010

Waiting for Barry Zito to Turn Back Into a Pumpkin

I'm not going to lie and say that I'm a long time Barry Zito fan. I'm not. But I'm also not a fan of otherwise likeable players collapsing into themselves like a black hole after they sign huge contracts.

That's why I always find myself rooting for the Bay Area Ace to turn his career around. And so far this year it looks like he has, what with his 4-0 record, his 1.53 ERA and his 2.67 FIP in 5 starts 5-0 record, his 1.49 ERA. and his 2.60 FIP in 6 starts. Too bad it won't last. To paraphrase Bart Simpson, apocryphally paraphrasing George Burns, regression is a hideous bitch goddess.

Last night on ESPN, John Kruk credited Zito's resurrection to a change in his arm angle. I'm not saying Zito hasn't changed his delivery, although when I look at the release points for his first start in May 2010, and compare it to his first start in May 2009, I'm not sure I can see any difference.

What I can see is that Zito's FIP is 37% 39% better than his career average, and his opponent BABIP is 24% 18% better, sitting at a remarkable .209 .228. Unfortunately for the former Athletics front man, pitchers' opponent BABIP almost always hangs out around .280-.300. In other words, Zito's pace is just not sustainable.

Now, I want Zito to succeed just as much as the next guy. Do I think Zito can make himself out to be a serviceable, or even valuable, starter for the Giants? Absolutely. Do I think he's got a shot at maintaining these numbers this year? Absolutely not, but I wish him nothing except the best of stochastic outliers.

(Photo Credit: Us Weekly. Yes, that's right, Us Weekly.)

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