Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Zito Zone

Barry Zito continued his pitching excellence last night and the Giants won easily. Aubrey Huff's .244/.344/.403 is looking better all the time as the lefty provided the big hit that settled matters in the 5th inning. It seems like he's had a lot of good PAs lately but with nothing to show for it, so I was happy he got the clutch RBIs. Throw in another hit and two walks and that's a good night. He even made a nice play in the field, lunging for a low throw from the Panda (who'd made a slick bare-hand pickup) yet keeping his toe on the bag to make the out.

The Barry Zito of 2007-2008 started to disappear in the second half of 2009, and the 2010 version is something else entirely. FanGraphs tells me he's walking fewer batters than ever (2.80 BB/9, career 3.70) and getting more ground balls (44.7% of balls in play vs. his career 38.1%). You have to like that. He's yielded only 20 hits in 35-1/3 IP, with no home runs in those five starts. His 2.66 FIP is well below his career 4.27 and he's already racked up 1.2 WAR (his entire 2008 was 1.4 WAR). I just don't know what to make of it! More confidence? Better mechanics? New pitching strategies? Improved attitude and focus? It sure seems like his veteran savvy clutchness is savvier and clutchier, and his gamer-issitude has been cranked up to 11. Whatever it is, Barry, stay in this new Zito Zone and keep it going. There is one thing on the FanGraphs page that concerns me, though, and that is his BABIP. It's very stat-hip to toss around BABIP stuff, and RMC wants to be on the cutting edge of stat-hipness, so stick with me, lads. Zito's career BABIP is .273, but it is only .209 so far this season. In a full season, his BABIP has been as low as .248 (2003) and has been as high as .305 (2008). That's a swing of of about 30 points on either side of his lifetime mark. Here's a bit from Baseball Prospectus about BABIP:
Batting Average on balls put into play. A pitcher's average on batted balls ending a plate appearance, excluding home runs. Based on the research of Voros McCracken and others, BABIP is mostly a function of a pitcher's defense and luck, rather than persistent skill. Thus, pitchers with abnormally high or low BABIPs are good bets to see their performances regress to the mean. A typical BABIP is about .300. 
Wow. "Regression to the mean" is ├╝ber-hip stat-speak, me buckos, so you've got some serious water-cooler B.S. to befuddle your co-workers with next week. Just be sure to thank me with tax-deductible donations (I take PayPal).

Despite the terrific, workmanlike win against a tough division foe (is it just me or does the Rockies lineup look like an ad for a freakin' fitness magazine?), there was some disturbing weirdness last night. Bengie Molina hit cleanup! This cannot continue. I don't care if he's "got the hot hand" or not. DON'T FUCKING PUT BENGIE MOLINA IN THE FUCKING CLEANUP SPOT. Also, Barry Zito was allowed to continue pitching despite racking up over 100 pitches through seven. Tim Lincecum was removed in the 9th inning with one out because he'd thrown too many pitches. Uh, Bruce? Tim Lincecum >> Barry Zito, OK? Like I said, weird.

I'm going to miss Cain's game today. He could use a little luck and some run support, don't you think?



p.s. Beat-the-dead-horse-department: I had a beer last night with a friend of mine who's originally from Philadelphia (and is a big baseball fan), and he was beside himself with mirth about Bochy pulling Lincecum against his beloved Phils. He kept going on and on about our "idiotic" manager taking out the "best pitcher in the game" and giving the Phils a chance when they'd "had no chance all day." His glee over the outcome and incredulity over the pitching change was right in line with JC's argument in his post on Wednesday. Let's just say I was happy when he left and let me finish my beer in peace--I certainly didn't need to re-live that game again. I'm glad the Giants put the loss behind them while the Phils got trashed at home against the Mets.


Brother Bob said...

Can regressing be an improvement? It works both ways, right? So Zito sucked so bad for so long he's regressed up all the way to outstanding.
It seemed fishy that Wilson didn't go out in the 9th for a save chance. This morning they're putting out some story about how he got a booboo in practice, but I'm not buying it.
One impression I get from Huff is that he's wicked smart with a great sense of humor. Don't be surprised if he has a career in broadcasting after he hangs up his cleats.

Anonymous said...

It looks like he is going through the Mike McCormick factor. After being a good pitcher he sucked for a few years, and came back and was really good a few years later, winning a Cy Young. Years later, in retrospect, he explained that his arm just did not feel right for a few years and then it started to feel better and he also learned how to pitch better when it wasn't feeling perfect. The question is: Is this sustainable? and furthermore if he can sustain his performance this year, can we expect it again next year?