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Monday, May 04, 2009

Zito Returning to Form?

Barry Zito has been a different pitcher over the first month of 2009 than he was in '07 and '08. The Giants' high-priced lefty is in a groove that Giants' fans haven't yet seen from him while dawning the orange and black.

After his first two starts of the season, a lot of people were thinking "here we go again". In those first two outings, Zito was charged with 10 earned runs, on 11 hits and 6 walks in 9 innings. However, if you watched those starts closely, you'll know that Zito pitched better than his line showed in both instances. He was victimized by a lot of misplayed balls and it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong for Zito, did. Now, the defense is starting to catch the ball behind him and things are starting to fall into place. He's still not getting any run support, as evident by his 0-2 record, but practically every other statistical category has been improved for Zito so far in 2009. Through his first 29 innings pitched, he holds a 3.99 era and surprisingly low 1.16 WHIP. He also has seen an increase in strikeouts as he's k'd 19 compared to just 10 walks. Granted, it's only 29 innings, but the secret to his success has been that WHIP ratio. He's not allowing free passes and he's got the stuff to get a strikeout when he needs it, two things that were completely out of his control most of last season and '07. Zito has always been a slow starter, so it's great to see him hitting a groove here early in the season and pitching much better than the other high-priced left-hander who signed a huge contract this last winter (CC Sabathia). Oh, by the way, remember when everybody wanted the Giants to go hard after CC Sabathia? His numbers through his first 6 starts in New York (New York Yankees Schedule): 1-3, 4.85 era, 1.38 WHIP.

Besides Zito, the starting pitching as a whole has continued to carry the weight for the Giants. In fact, with minimal run support, the Giants starting rotation has gotten the team over the .500 mark, this late in a season, for the first time in a while. Sunday's game was a classic example of how things have gone for the Giants this season. They had numerous opportunities to put runs on the board throughout the game and take advantage of a terrific start from Zito, but the game went to the eleventh inning, scoreless. The Giants eventually took the game on a Rich Aurilia game-winning double, but squandered at least 3 other lucrative opportunities at putting runs on the board. If the Giants start getting the run in from third w/less than 2 outs, and putting up 4-5 runs a night to support their starting pitchers, they could take off. Again, they're a game above .500, and a few of their offensive players haven't really done anything yet. Emmanuel Burris is just starting to get his batting average going. Randy Winn, Fred Lewis and Aaron Rowand have also been struggling. But even with the offense struggling, the team has been doing enough to win (10-4 since April 17th). That alone is something that they haven't been able to do in the last few years. The team is improving, slowly, but surely.

Notes: Up next, the Giants (SF Giants Schedule) travel to Chicago (Chicago Cubs Schedule) for a short 2-game set with the Cubs starting Monday night. The Cubbies are one of the better teams in the NL and the first real, outer-division challenges the Giants face. And they're on the road... So it should be interesting to see how the Giants handle the tough environment in Chicago... Zito has now put forth 3 quality efforts while being caught by someone other than Bengie Molina.. Can't blame Bengie for Zito's two-seasons in San Francisco, but if it helps Zito to be caught by Sandoval, or Holm, or whoever, then do it.
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5 Comments:

  • At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Giants Fanatic said…

    Three good starts in a row for Zit"0". Maybe he is finding himself. Like you said before, the pressure is kind of off of him with Lincecum, Cain and Johnson in the rotation, so maybe that's what he needed. Can't wait to watch the Cubs series...
    Go Giants!!!!

     
  • At 7:05 PM, Blogger David said…

    He's also throwing his FB significantly harder. Great to see he can be a positive part of the G's phenomenal staff.

     
  • At 8:40 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Yeah, good point David, I forgot to mention that in this post.

    Zito's been around 86-88 with his heater for the most part compared to around 83-85 which was where he was at for most of last year... And I do think that's playing a big part in his success so far.

     
  • At 12:13 AM, Anonymous J-Bill said…

    I hate to see Sanchez take one step back tonight after looking so good in his previous starts.. I wonder if this guy will ever get it together, or if he'll just be a tease throughout his career. Maybe the Giants should deal him while his value is still high.. Just a though.

     
  • At 1:10 PM, Blogger David said…

    There's been a lot of talk on KNBR of late about up-and-comers Bumgarner and Alderson and the potential for serious SP trading power next year. So that said, we may be in a great spot to trade (Sanchez or otherwise) for some bats. Probably impt to remember that the unit is all but done after this year...

     

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