The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Feeling fit as a fiddle

and ready to bust Steve Henson a new orifice. You remember Steve Henson. He’s the tool who wrote this very bad thing and then thought he was off the hook because I was too sleepy to call him an asshole yesterday. Oh, no, Steve. I do not forget this.

Zito isn’t pitching because he’s a colossal bust

That’s Steve’s title. My first thought: wow, that’s pretty harsh. My second thought: wow, your grasp of causality is pretty weak.

Quick note: Steve’s understanding of causality does not improve at any point during this article. Nor does his writing.

By the time the dreaded "bust" tag is draped around the neck of a baseball player collecting obscene paychecks for negligible production, he’s usually become a clubhouse cancer (think Kevin Brown), is beset by injuries (Mike Hampton) or both (Albert Belle).

Kevin Brown was a bust because he was injured too, Steve. Not because he was clogging up the clubhousepaths with his cancer ass. He threw 132 innings in 2004 and then 73.1 in 2005 and then he was out of baseball forever.

Now, you could argue that his injuries weren’t unrelated to his cancer-y-ness, since the main one was when he hilariously broke his hand punching a goddamn wall, but still. You think he’d be regarded as a bust if he’d been healthy and put up his career-average numbers, which are 127 ERA+, 1.222 WHIP, and 3.6 WAR?

Also, you’re going to go on to name more people who’ve famously been tarred as "busts" and who don’t fit in your make-believe categories. But go on.

Then there is Barry Zito. Pleasant fellow. Cool cat. Team-first attitude. Stays healthy.

Regular readers of this blog know about my sick obsession with a baseball man whose name is very similar to that and might in fact be the same. If I were you, Steve, I’d have talked more about how unstoppably sexy he is and used fewer weird terms that make me sound like a beatnick who got trapped in time warped by someone.

But a bust just the same, maybe the biggest in baseball because of his exorbitant contract: $126 million over seven years, with his biggest three paydays still to come.

There’s a clue in here about why maybe Steve’s a bit late to this party. You see where he mentions that swanky Barry’s contract is for seven years? And you see the bit about how he has three years left on it?

Steve. Daddy-o. The rest of us are like four years ahead of you. Do you follow baseball much?

He’s been so bad that the San Francisco Giants didn’t include him on their National League division series or championship series rosters.

On pretty much any other team, that would be an amazing piece of dickery; I mean, Zito’s been about average this year. But the Giants have like fifteen better pitchers, including one with a crazy man’s beard.

The Giants signed Zito to that albatross of a contract before the 2007 season based on his mostly stellar seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics.

Before which season, Steve? Oh, the 2007 season? You really have your finger on the pulse of hot baseball happenings, don’t you.

Barry Zito’s 2010: 4.25 FIP, 4.77 xFIP
Barry Zito’s 2003: 4.05 FIP, 4.73 xFIP
Barry Zito’s career: 4.29 FIP, 4.73 xFIP

He’s the same pitcher he’s always been. Average-ish. Walks way way too many dudes. Has worse defense behind him than he did in Oakland Coliseum — a ballpark the size of Utah — and so allows more runs. Shouldn’t you know this? It’s kind of your job, Steve. My job is to fold boxes on an assembly line, and I know this.

Zito won the American League Cy Young Award in 2002, never had a losing record and pitched credibly in five postseasons.

Zito’s Cy Young was kind of a weird choice, but not indefensible. Pedro was way better, but pitched thirty fewer innings. Derek Lowe (of all people) was a little bit better, but pitched ten fewer innings. Kind of a wash, and, of course, Pedro and Lowe split the Red Sox vote. And one sucker voted for Jerrod Washburn. What?

I mean, I know; I’m not stupid. Zito recorded 23 misleadingly-named-and-utterly-meaningless "wins," and all you dummies in the BBWAA had a giant collective baseballgasm.

As for Zito never having a losing season with the A’s, well, that’s technically true. Here are the Oakland Athletics teams Barry Zito pitched for:

2000: 91-70 (947 RS (!) / 813 RA), 1st place
2001: 102-60 (884 RS / 645 RA), 2nd place (Seattle won 116 fucking games)
2002: 103-59 (800 RS / 654 RA), 1st place
2003: 96-66 (768 RS / 643 RA), 1st place
2004: 91-71 (793 RS / 742 RA), 2nd place
2005: 88-74 (772 RS / 658 RA), 2nd place
2006: 93-69 (771 RS / 727 RA), 1st place

It’s not really hard for pitchers to accumulate a bunch of "wins" when their teams are that good. And Barry was 14-12, 11-11, and 14-13 in 2003-2005, which is really really close to having a losing record. 11-11 on a team that was 20 games above .500 ain’t something to cheer about, Steve-o.

Meanwhile, the Giants haven’t scored 700 runs in a season since Zito’s been on the team, which I’m pretty sure is entirely Barry Zito’s fault. Asshole. Choker.

Unless somebody can come up with some other reason why the Giants’ offense would have tanked after 2006. But… what could that be?

The Barry Bonds era was coming to a close in San Francisco.

Oh. Right.

Already a Bay Area favorite, Zito was a refreshing counterpoint to the sullen slugger.

Yeah. I mean, he’s called Barry too, but this one’s white! And kind of stinks at baseball.

He plays guitar and sings.

I copied the link because Barry’s "celebrity playlist" is amazing. It’s mostly like Dave Matthews and Joni Mitchell and Jeff Buckley and earnest singer-songwriter shit like that, and then what pops in at #5? Fucking Incubus. Here’s what Barry Zito has to say about Incubus:

"Incubus has inspired me musically in many ways. I love their jazz style rhythms and progressions that come through in a heavier sound. This is a killer instrumental that shows a great use of 9/8 and 9/11 in the main theme and features a more mellow but meaty B section."

That’s a dude who takes some awful nu-metal way the hell too seriously. Though I agree with him about one thing: Incubus would have been a great use of 9/11. Too bad they hit the World Trade Center instead.

He surfs, meditates, eats organically and exudes an understated charm.

He’s so dreamy.

He gives back to the community, and his Strikeouts for Troops program especially resonates.

What is it with dipshits that they think "resonates" is a meaningful word? Here’s a definition of "resonates." You could twist definition 3 into fitting here, but… his Strikeouts for Troops program especially strikes a chord? That doesn’t mean anything either. With whom? In what way? Why?

Steve, if you get paid by the word, you stand to benefit by answering these questions. And if you don’t, you should cut that line, because it’s awful.

But upon collecting paychecks from the Giants, Zito stopped pitching well.

Alternative hypothesis: he never pitched that well to begin with (except for his 2002 career year), and his excessive walks and flyball tendencies don’t play as well in SBC as they did in the Coliseum, which is the size of Utah. Wait, did I do that joke already? Then let’s jazz it up: the Coliseum is the size of your mom’s underpants! Whoa burn!

Four years into the deal, the left-hander has yet to post a winning record. His ERA has fluctuated between 4.03 and 5.15.

Come on, Steve. Wins are for retards and criminals. And his ERA hasn’t "fluctuated." Here are his ERAs for those four years: 4.53, 5.15, 4.03, 4.15. That’s not what "fluctuated between" means. He had one really shitty year, and his ERA jumped. Then he settled back into his usual four-and-change routine.

Incidentally, his 4.15 ERA this year ain’t bad. It’s just a hair worse than league average, and is better than, among others, Zack Greinke (4.17), Phil Hughes (4.19), Mark Buehrle (4.28), John Lackey (4.40), and A.J. Burnett (5.26). But wait, you say, because you are a moron, Phil Hughes went 18-8! He’s a winner! That proves that ERA is for retardeds and cripples, because wins are what counts. Winning! Wins!

Phil Hughes, RS/GS: 6.8
Barry Zito, RS/GS: 3.6

The Giants scored 3.6 runs per game for Barry Zito. How the shit many wins do you expect a man to get in those conditions? Hell, if they’d scored 6.8 like the Yankees did for Hughes, he’d probably be like 18-7 and everybody would be writing articles about how the old Barry Zito is back and now he’s totally worth that $126 million, because, holy shit, 18 wins!

This is why wins — and, again, I mean the preschool pitching stat confusingly labeled "wins" and not actual winning — are stupid. Which isn’t to say that ERA ain’t stupid, but I’d take it over wins any day of the week.

Barry Zito 2010 FIP: 4.26
A.J. Burnett 2010 FIP: 4.83

And his most abysmal stretch came when the Giants needed strong performances the most – the last few months of the 2010 season, when they were chasing the San Diego Padres for the NL West crown.

September 8: Barry Zito goes 6 strong innings, giving up two runs on four hits. The Giants score one, and Zito takes the loss.

September 14: Barry Zito throws 5.2 innings of one-hit ball, allowing only an unearned run due to an error by execrable shortstop Juan Uribe. Giants don’t score, and Zito takes the loss.

September 19: Barry Zito throws 6 innings, allows 2 runs on 3 hits. The Giants show up at the ballpark this time and score nine runs. Zito gets the win.

"The last few months of the 2010 season" were apparently all played on October 2. Who knew?

In his final 12 starts, he went 1-8 with a 6.14 ERA.

The Giants scored more than three runs in exactly one of those losses. And Steve data-searches out three games in which Barry went seven strong innings and got a no-decision even though the Giants ended up winning. And that huge ERA is mainly down to two really awful starts — August 28, when he went 3.2 IP with 7 ER, and August 22, which was 3.2 IP and 5 ER. That span also includes four games where Zito went 6 IP or more with 2 ER or fewer, but Steve doesn’t want you to know about those.

Not that 6 IP / 2 ER is exactly setting the world on fire, but come on. It’s pretty good.

Yet even after all the failures, Zito had an opportunity to redeem himself, to win the game that would clinch the pennant Oct. 2 against the Padres at AT&T Park. He walked in two runs in the first inning and was pulled one batter into the fourth after walking the opposing pitcher.

Yeah, that start was pretty bad. I watched it. Fortunately, the Giants have an invincible staff ace who would never have a start that bad! Oh. Wait. Well, at least in those crucial last few months, when the team really needs him, he won all his games. Especially the ones against the Padres! Hmm? Oh. Shit.

He pitched without conviction. He nibbled off the strike zone as if he knew his stuff wasn’t any good.

Is that also the reason Timmy sucked in those two games? Or is it maybe because pitching is hard and sometimes dudes fuck it up, even if they’re pretty good?

Here’s a fun game:

Steve Henson wrote his article without conviction. He nibbled off the facts as if he knew his brain wasn’t any good.

Also, Barry Zito walked too many dudes because of a confidence problem? Barry Zito is an iron-disciplined zen monk who has always, always, always had a problem with walks. The year he won the Cy Young he still had 3.1 BB/9.

"The last game was the thing that sticks out," he said. "The money was on the table and I went out and didn’t attack the strike zone the way I should have. That’s a huge disappointment to me."

Asshole. Why can’t you walk 0.8/9 like Cliff Lee?

He hasn’t pitched since, losing his spot in the postseason rotation to a 21-year-old rookie, Madison Bumgarner, who is being paid about $250,000 this year.

Yeah, see, that’s the thing; the Giants signed a massively expensive, kind-of-average free agent pitcher right as their farm system was about to barf a thousand awesome young pitchers right into the bigs. Which was: stupid. But, again, we’re about four years ahead of you, Steve.

To Zito’s credit, he hasn’t complained. He was one of the first players out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates when they eliminated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

Would somebody get this asshole out of my clubhouse?? He is cancering up the clubpaths!

Also: Barry Zito is left off the roster, and yet he’s still sitting in the clubhouse during the games. Unlike, say, Dioner Navarro, who told the Rays they could (and this quote is verbatim*) "go fuck their fucking selves."

* Quote may actually be a lie

But the disappointment runs deep, beyond Zito and through the fan base and Giants’ decision-makers who lavished riches upon him, expecting a staff ace.

Not really, Steve. Because, again, those of us who’ve actually watched baseball or read about baseball or perhaps made dick jokes about Gary Sheffield in the last four years are very familiar with this. I mean, for fuck’s sake, it’s been almost two entire years since I dared your co-worker, Kevin Kaduk, to play 10 and 17 in roulette at the winter meetings as a tribute to Barry Zito’s 2008 W-L (for the record, Kevin totally did it; much like the Giants, his bet on Barry Zito did not pay off).

And nobody with brains expected Zito to be any kind of "ace." Look! Look! Here’s an article from December of 2006 which is all about what a ridiculous overpay Zito’s deal is, and how he’s kind of average-ish. People have always known this, Steve. You are: super, super late to this party.

It only gets worse. Zito’s contract was backloaded so that his highest salaries come last. He stands to make $18.5 million in 2011, $19 million in 2012 and $20 million in 2013.


And the contract includes a club option for 2014 at $18 million with a buyout of $7 million. In other words, the Giants would have to pay Zito an additional $7 million just for him to pack his bags and leave for good.

What? No, that’s… not what that means. That means the Giants can tell Zito to pack his bags and leave for good and save $11 million. Seriously, Steve, do you know anything about anything?

The full 2014 option vests if he pitches 600 innings over the next three years, although rest assured the Giants won’t allow that to happen.

Zito pitched 199.1 innings this year, so if the Giants conspicuously cut his innings, the union might have a thing or two to say about that. Remember the union, Steve?

Reciting baseball salaries can be disorienting. The amounts are so exorbitant that it’s difficult to determine whether a player making megamillions is a relative bargain or a bust. To give Zito’s deal some perspective:

• The Yankees’ CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million) and the Mets’ Johan Santana (seven/$137.5M) are the only pitchers with more lucrative totals than Zito.

Sabathia’s deal is ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as Zito’s, sure — mainly because the Giants really, really couldn’t afford the contract they gave — but pretty damn ridiculous nonetheless. Santana’s deal was awesome when it was signed, but then he got hurt. So we’ll see.

• Sabathia ($23 million), Santana ($22.5 million) and the Phillies’ Roy Halladay ($20 million) are the only pitchers who will make more than Zito next season.

That’s, like, the same data point again, Steve.

• In 2013, only the Tigers’ Justin Verlander ($20 million) will have joined Santana ($25.5 million), Sabathia ($23 million ) and Halladay ($20 million) as making as much or more than Zito ($20 million).

Wait, how does saying the same thing over and over and over provide any "perspective?" We get it. Zito makes a lot of money. We already knew that, you dope.

Sabathia, Halladay and Verlander are in the top echelon of pitchers. So is Santana when he’s healthy, although injuries call into question whether he’ll be a burden or a blessing to the Mets going forward.

Sabathia is stunningly overrated. Seriously, if the Yankees had the kind of payroll limits the Giants do (and the kind of run scoring issues — ye gods!), everybody would be writing this article about Sabathia also.

Position players with $100 million-plus deals are more common than pitchers because their injury risk is less and their production tends to be more easily predicted. Yet even with hitters, teams are more generous than they need to be, as this chart illustrates:

Oh my God, there’s a chart?

This is the part of the article where I was going to embed Steve’s chart. Welcome! Turns out that’s a big fat pain in the Sabathia, so I didn’t bother. But the title of the chart is "Questionable contracts of $100 million and more," which is a pretty sweet hedge. Here’s the list:

• Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
• Johan Santana, Mets
• Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
• Barry Zito, Giants
• Vernon Wells, Blue Jays
• Carlos Beltran, Mets
• Carlos Lee, Astros

Okay. Listen to me slowly. When they signed their contracts, Alex Rodriguez and Johan Santana were the best position player and pitcher in baseball. Then they both got hurt. Still, Santana has given the Mets one amazing year and two really good years, and projects to be worth most of the value of his contract over its lifetime (assuming the marginal value of a win doesn’t crash). A-Rod’s been hurt; if he can recover, he’ll earn his money easily. If he doesn’t, then, yeah, injury-related bust.

Soriano and Wells are in the same boat as Zito: they each had one really good year and then got a massive, ridiculous contract as a result. Neither of them has a chance of being worth the money he makes.

El Caballo’s contract was insane.

And Beltran. Holy shit, Steve. How did you manage to get Beltran on this list? Beltran’s phenomenal, and he only has one year left on his deal, which means he can’t really go into the tank and ruin the whole thing. Baseball Reference says he’s been worth 28.4 wins to the Mets during his deal, which is a lot. The average value of a win in 2010 is $4 million (I’m using just one value to make the math easier, but it ain’t changed a whole lot over the last few years), which means that Beltran’s been worth $113.6 million to the Mets. They have paid him $95.9 million. That is what a good deal is, Steve.

But anyhow, Steve just inserted that little bit of wrongness as an aside. Now he’s back to being wrong about Barry Zito:

Why is Zito so disturbingly mediocre after being so good?

Better question: Why is Zito, who is pitching exactly like he always has, suddenly getting more Ls and fewer Ws?

Answer: worse team, less foul territory.

The statistical gurus at Inside Edge note that Zito is the only pitcher in baseball whose fastball averages less than 90 mph to consistently throw in the top half of the strike zone.

Oh, lord. This is going to be like how that Adelson fool said that the way to beat Cliff Lee was to hack away at every pitch, isn’t it? I think this is what they mean when they talk about "just enough knowledge to be dangerous," only instead of dangerous you’re just being an ass.

Zito’s average fastball was 85.7 mph in 2010. In his Cy Young season of 2002, it was 87.4. So while he isn’t throwing as hard as he did with the A’s, it’s not as if he was ever a power pitcher.

That’s something, sure. He’s getting older. But, as you say, he didn’t blow anybody away in 2002 neither. His K/9 is pretty much the same.

The primary difference is location. Zito threw only 23 percent of his fastballs in the lower third of the strike zone this season – third-lowest in MLB to relievers Heath Bell and Tyler Clippard, both of whom throw well over 90 mph. Furthermore, half of Zito’s fastballs were in the top third of the strike zone, a dangerous area to work for anybody less than a flamethrower. The short list of pitchers who worked upstairs that often includes hard throwers Verlander, Matt Cain, Neftali Feliz
and Matt Thornton.

You hear that, Barry? Steve Henson wants you to work downstairs. Acutally, I… I kind of do, too, you dreamboat.

Anyhow, did anybody notice the piece of salient information Steve leaves out of his airtight proof? That’s right: he never told us how many of Zito’s fastballs hit the lower third in 2002. I’m not an Inside Edge member, so I can’t get at that data, but anybody care to guess? I’m picking 23%, myself.

Zito doesn’t belong in that company. He needs to work down in the zone to be successful.

If that were the case, I expect you’d have given us pitch location data for 2002. Which I’ll bet says his pitches hit the same spots they do in 2010, since his flyball rate hasn’t changed.

Barry Zito 2002 GB/FB: 0.55%
Barry Zito 2010 GB/FB: 0.57%

Sorry. I mean it’s slightly improved. As has his HR/FB%, which went from 7.6% in 2002 to 6.5% in 2010. But just go ahead and make shit up, Steve. It’s easier.

And anybody wondering whether he could be effective coming out of the bullpen in the NLCS to face a left-handed batter in the late innings, consider this: The batting average of lefties against him in his past 11 starts is .304, and in the past two months lefties have hit his fastball at a .500 clip.

Nice cherry-pick. Batting average against lefties in his last 11 starts? What? Anybody care to guess how lefties hit Zito in the start before that? The answer is: they didn’t.

And that "batting average by lefties against Zito’s fastball in the last two months" is a crazy, crazy stat to cite. Also, the big round .500 is your tipoff that something’s amiss. How many fastballs do you suppose that’s counting? Two? Four?

So instead of pitching, Zito will continue to be the world’s most highly paid cheerleader. He’ll say the right things. He won’t be a distraction. And when he returns home, waiting in his mailbox will be another fat paycheck.

Welcome to 2007, Steve. Now do the one about how Barry Bonds’ home run record is tainted and we should stamp asterisks all over it.

October 17th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

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