Thursday, November 1, 2012

25 for 16: Barry Zito

There were a lot of signature moments in the Giants post-season, but if you had to pick one you would not go wrong choosing the bunt single by Barry Zito in Game Five of the NLCS. Not only did Barry-Z pitch a brilliant game, his bunt brought home the final run of the four-run, 4th inning rally that put the Cardinals in a hole they never recovered from. It was a terrific display of athleticism by the much-maligned pitcher and underscored the complete one-through-nine effort that was the hallmark of the 2012 champs. The Giants struck out 12 times in that game yet won convincingly! Zeets also delivered a great start in Game One of the World Series where he was matched up with ├╝ber-ace Justin Verlander. When he stroked his RBI single off the flame-throwing 2011 MVP to make it a 5-0 lead you knew his redemption was complete.

I'm sure Barry Zito would be the first to tell you he did not need redeeming. Fan are fickle--they love you one day and hate you the next. His performance as a Giant has been well below expectations, but I doubt it was from lack of effort. By all accounts Zito has worked hard and tried his best every season to deliver the goods. Baseball is a difficult game that humbles even the most talented performers. I imagine that Barry has reached a place in his life where the process--the preparation and practice--is paramount, and the results secondary. If you do stuff right, things work out. Usually. But sometimes they don't. You can't get too hung up on outcomes in this crazy world because so many things are random and out of your control. He strikes me as someone who knows that and embraces it. You'd have to be that way to deal with the scrutiny and criticism that comes with being a famous, high-dollar ballplayer. I was happy to see him get the results this season and make such a great contribution to the team. The Giants won the last 14 times Zito pitched, and that includes games where he got bombed. Was that mere coincidence? Or does he bring something to the table as a teammate and competitor that we don't get to see? No matter the answers, it worked out great for us. The 2012 Giants are World Series Champions in a large part because no. 75 made some shit happen!



Zo said...

The Giants, obviously, had a lot of confidence in the post season, otherwise they could never have finished on top. But you can't overestimate how huge Zito's start in Game 5 of the NLCS was, or for that matter, his start vs Verlander. Even though the Giants beat the Reds against long odds, they were down by three games AGAIN, and you had to wonder if the ability to go to the well of miracles had run out. A Zito rbi? That's a miracle. A Zito shutdown of the Cards? Wow. They showed that, once again, they could come back and the Cardinals, up 3-2, were hearing footsteps at that point. And then Verlander. The world's best pitcher. With a fearsome lineup behind him. The guy who humiliated the A's and the Yankees and could throw three times. Against an exhausted Giants team. And then, on October 24, all of a sudden Verlander was not the best pitcher in the world. Zito beat him decisively. And from that moment, you knew the Giants could take the Tigers no matter what every paper in the country said. You couldn't know it would be 4 games, but you knew it could happen. And so did the Giants, and so did the Tigers. And thass was up!

Shankbone said...

I enjoy statistical analysis as much as the next lad, but here's some strawhat stuff: Zito this year, finally, pitched with purpose and determination. For me, I saw it on his face. He didn't look lost out there, the way he had so many times in his first five years of suiting up for the French Vanilla. When Zito keeps the ball down, pitches to contact, gets some plays behind him, gets a lead and has the confidence to bring his curve ball out to play, he is a damn effective pitcher. A lot has to happen for that to occur though. But I think its important, he grew a spine. Pitching is 90% mental, if you have the physical gifts. His ability to pitch backwards and make his 85MPH heater a weapon instead of a liability was fun. No, it was beyond fun, as Giants fans will forever remember Game 5 in St. Louis, and Game 1 of the World Series. Barry Zito. Stopper. He beat the Doyers good, and he also won our first game of the season in a legendary Coors field performance. Nobody expected any of this, and I think its one of the coolest redemption stories of all time. Zito will be cheered forever now, and that is also very cool. Huzzah, Barry Zito!

SIR said...

Zito also found his life partner this year and being one to MOC I know that can mean more than anything. We were at the 2002 Game 3 Series loss on my 50th birthday but won this NLCS on my 60th - can't get much better!

Zo said...

@ Shankbone - You're right, you can see it, even game to game. When he gets the ball and throws it, he tends to be successful. When he wanders around thinking between pitches, he spends too much time trying to set a perfect pitch on the corner, and misses.