Friday, May 8, 2009

When do we start taking Barry Zito seriously?

Nine years ago, I liked a certain young starting pitcher so much that I incorporated his last name into the name of my fantasy baseball team. That pitcher? Barry Zito. I kept the name for four years, and during those four years Zito had won-loss records of 7-4, 17-8, 23-5, and 14-12. After that the name got a little stale, and so I switched it up to something else. About that same time, Zito began to struggle. Well, maybe not struggle, but he certainly wasn't that same dominating pitcher that he used to be. His WHIP rose from a low of 1.13 in 2002 all the way to a high watermark of 1.60 in 2008.

Guys who go 23-5 usually get taken seriously, but Zito hasn't been taken seriously for years. Maybe now that he has racked up three four straight quality starts, it is time to start taking him seriously. Maybe now that he has found a soulmate in catcher Pablo Sandoval, we should start taking him seriously.

I'm going to go to bed now (I have to wake up in four hours to pick up some pitchers to stream), but later I'll try to post some actual analysis about Zito in an attempt to see if he can be a sub 1.30 WHIP pitcher this year.

Oh, and the name of my fantasy team? Zito Burrito. Kinda fun, kinda dumb. Good night.


  • Everything you could ever want to know about Zito's last start.

  • A quick glance at FanGraphs shows that Zito's 2009 LOB% (75.8%) isn't much over his career average (73.2%). His 2009 BABIP is actually higher (.284) than has career average (.273). His 2009 K/9 (6.11) is actually slightly below his career average (6.70), but his 2009 BB/9 (3.06) ties his best ever (he also had a BB/9 of 3.06 in his 22-5 2002 season, as this graph shows). One change that jumps out is that 27% of his pitches thrown were curveballs in 2002, but now he's only throwing his curve 13% of the time. For some reason, after the 2005 season he abruptly stopped throwing his curveball as much. The only difference I can glean from these charts is that he seems to be throwing a tick faster this year. So what does it all mean? Well he's walking fewer batters and giving up fewer home runs. If he can keep that up, he should be able to continue to be a sub 1.30 WHIP pitcher. I have not idea how true it is, but I like to believe that as long as Sandoval is behind the plate, Zito will continue his resurgence.

  • Just to summarize in a less blocky paragraph: after Zito pitches, check the boxscore for walks and HRs. If he's continues to give up fewer than 1 HR every other start and 2 walks per start, you should believe in all things Zito. If his HR or BB creep over those thresholds, be wary. Is that too subtle? Then just check back on these graphs (using the BB/9 and HR/9 tabs).

  • An old Zito Q&A from back in the day.
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