Zito’s Disaster

The San Francisco Giants had good reason to feel confident going into their final series of the regular season against the San Diego Padres. After launching themselves into first place in the National League West on a run fueled by an incredible September performance from their pitchers, the Giants needed only one victory against divisional rival San Diego in order to win the the division and guarantee themselves a playoff spot. After losing on Friday, things probably got a bit tense. Then came Barry Zito‘s start on Saturday:

There’s no need to go over Barry Zito’s performance relative to his contract once again. Zito started the season impressively, at least superficially, and some thought he may have turned a corner. However, Zito unsurprisingly returned to form by the end of the season: a mediocre pitcher whose most valuable attribute is that his fly ball tendencies play well in his home park. He’s not great, or even good, but he probably won’t kill his team. Most of the time.

If Zito wasn’t the sole murderer on Saturday, he was definitely the chief accomplice. Rob Neyer once suggested that a start in which a pitcher gives up more runs than innings pitched be labeled a “disaster start.” Zito allowed four runs in three innings, so Saturday’s start qualifies. What is particularly striking is that Zito “drove in” two of the runs himself on consecutive bases-loaded walks in the first inning. After giving up singles to Chris Denorfia and David Eckstein to open the game, Miguel Tejada bunted the runners over. Zito and Giants manager Bruce Bochy then vividly demonstrated why intentional walks are rarely a good idea. Yes, first base was open, and Adrian Gonzalez is a far superior hitter than Ryan Ludwick.* It “worked,” at least temporarily, as Ludwick made an out. However, the bases were still loaded, and Zito proceeded to walk Yorvit Torrealbea and Scott Hairston consecutively, driving in the first two runs of the game.

* Without doing the all necessary calculations, it is worth noting that the lefty Zito would have had at least something of a platoon advantage against the left-handed hitting Gonzalez.

That wasn’t all that mattered in the game — the Padres scored another run in the third on a Pablo Sandoval error and tacked on another in the fourth that was credited to Zito, who he had just been relieved by Chris Ray after allowing two more runners on base. But those walks were two of the biggest shifts of the game in terms of Win Probability Added, and probably two of the more devastating walks of the season from the perspective of the Giants and their fans.

It isn’t all on Zito, of course. The Giants still had a chance in the ninth when they were down 4-2 and had with runners on first and third and one out, but Jose Guillen grounded into a double play. Although San Francisco can still win the division by beating the Padres on Sunday, if the Giants do end up watching the playoffs on TV, Zito’s disastrous first inning (with an assist from Bochy) in today’s game will definitely stand out.



Print This Post



Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
maestro876
Guest
maestro876
5 years 10 months ago

There was only one out when they put Adrian on. And Adrian has a .402 wOBA against lefties this year, so that’s probably part of what was going on in Bochy’s head when he had Zito IBB him.

Ace
Guest
Ace
5 years 10 months ago

This is Bruce Bochy. I promise you that melon-head was thinking in terms involving RBI and proven veterans, not wOBA.

guest
Guest
guest
5 years 10 months ago

maestro, without looking up the stats, I would bet that Adrian Gonzalez’s wOBA is much lower than .402 against lefties in his career. Also, one year is a small sample size alert, especially since he faces mostly right handed pitchers.

I would love to see or hear a baseball player say, “No, manager. Based on the run expectancy chart the statistics say that bunting the runners over/walking the hitter are bad options.”

Doogolas
Guest
Doogolas
5 years 10 months ago

Yeah this is the only year in his career with a wOBA over .358 vs LHP and only his third over .340. In his defense though, Ludwick has only two years in his career above .320wOBA vs LHP.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
5 years 10 months ago

Give the Padres credit, they’re getting it done when they absolutely need to. They’ve overachieved most of the year so it’d be great to see them make the playoffs.

It’d also be great to see the Braves NOT make it. Of course, if the Braves can’t manage to beat the Phillies #5 starter and a AAA rookie starter, they probably dont deserve to be in the Playoffs. The Phillies aren’t even throwing their full lineup out there and they’ve dominated them in the first 2 games of this final series. It’d be great if the Pads are able to take advantage of that.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

The IBB to Gonzalez was not the problem here. The non-IBB’s to Torrealba and Hairston were. Just an atrocious pitching performance by Zito.

Had he pitched a gem in this game, Giants fans might have forgiven and forgotten the $127 M he’s getting paid for 7 years of crappy pitching for the San Francisco Giants, but instead, he laid an egg, and not a goose egg! With this game, Barry Zito probably forever cemented in the minds of Giants fans that he is a FA bust.

kbertling353
Guest
kbertling353
5 years 10 months ago

“With this game, Barry Zito probably forever cemented in the minds of Giants fans that he is a FA bust.”

Again, it’s not his fault that Sabean is a dumbass.

Wally
Guest
Wally
5 years 10 months ago

The difference between the IBB and the regular BB here is that the IBB is a choice. Its easy to either make that choice or not. Where the BB is function of talent on the part of both the pitcher and the hitter and is thus much more difficult to control.

To a certain extent the BBs are going to happen. You can’t really change who Barry Zito is, and even better pitchers are going to let a couple runs score in that situation. But its pretty damn easy to just not make a stupid choice.

Like, its hard to be successful, and say, earn an MD. But its pretty damn easy to ruin your chance at an MD by say drinking and driving.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

The only problem with that analogy is that the IBB was the right choice. AGone is the best hitter on that team by a mile. You don’t let him beat you with an open base. Again, the problem here is Zito’s failure to get the lesser hitters out, or even give himself a chance to get them out.

Wally
Guest
Wally
5 years 10 months ago

It was certainly not the right choice. While its difficult to account for absolutely every thing here, like L/R splits for all the batters to follow, this really isn’t close enough to question. The general rule is that the hitter has to be great and subsequent hitters have to be pretty poor to make it worth it early in the game (since you’re not just worried about a scoreless inning, but about reducing total scoring). Ludwick and Gonzalez, particularly against LHPs is just not much of a difference.

The main reason for this is because of exactly what happened to Zito and the Giants. If you walk the bases loaded, now another walk scores a run, or you end up in a high scoring inning thanks to bases clearly XBH.

This was a poor choice, obviously it isn’t DUI bad, as I was using hyperbole for effect, but it was poor none the less.

cs3
Guest
cs3
5 years 10 months ago

no, but it is his fault thats he is a terrible pitcher

Doug Lampert
Guest
Doug Lampert
5 years 10 months ago

He’s not terrible, he’s well above replacement as a starting pitcher. According to Fangraph’s valuation he’s been worth $32 million in his four years with the Giants, that’s damn good and makes a fine number three pitcher for almost any team.

He’s a quite good pitcher, quite possibly one of the 100 best in the world at what he does, it’s not his fault he’s paid like an ace.

Paul Thomas
Guest
Paul Thomas
5 years 10 months ago

First off, there are some inaccuracies in this story. The run on the Sandoval error occurred in the third inning. Also, you say Friday at one point when you mean Saturday.

Second, it’s very unlikely that the Giants would miss the playoffs at this point. That would require four separate independent events (they lose, the Braves win, they lose again to San Diego on Monday, and they lose to Atlanta on Tuesday). The Braves’ seeming inability to beat the Phillies’ B team has taken a lot of tension out of this SF-SD series…

Third, it’s now rather clear that Bumgarner should be the #3 starter in the playoffs, and I’d go with Sanchez if I needed a 4th at any point (I haven’t looked closely at the schedule to see where that would be needed).

LondonStatto
Guest
LondonStatto
5 years 10 months ago

No problem with the strategy. Walking Torrealba is unforgivable. Walking Hairston is just shocking. Throw the ball in the zone, dammit!

Fergie348
Guest
Fergie348
5 years 10 months ago

I was there, saw it with my own eyes. Zito doesn’t trust his stuff and nibbles always. He wasn’t getting the low and outside pitches he only sometimes gets. He wasn’t willing to throw it with more plate coverage, so the walks. No adjustments to the strike zone (which, truth be told was mobile), and no awareness that he was blowing it. Just a bad start at the worst possible time.

guest
Guest
guest
5 years 10 months ago

Whoa, he’s not a terrible pitcher. He’s a league average starter which is very valuable. He’s just overpaid because of his contract.

LeeTro
Member
Member
LeeTro
5 years 10 months ago

I think the bigger story so far in the series was Cain’s “disaster” outing. 3 HR allowed and 6 runs in 4 innings. Zito had 5 disaster outings this year, with 5 close calls. Cain had 3 disasters and 2 close calls this year. While you can’t be shocked that Zito did poorly, Cain was the one starter expected to pull his weight.

quincy0191
Guest
quincy0191
5 years 10 months ago

Cain’s been pulling his weight and a lot of Zito’s weight and some of Timmy’s weight. Considering how well he’s pitched, I’m not prepared to blame Cain for anything. He’s allowed a few bad starts. Zito has used up his few bad starts and then some.

LeeTro
Member
Member
LeeTro
5 years 10 months ago

I’m not blaming Cain for anything. I’m just saying that Cain’s performance was much more surprising, thus the bigger story.

Cooper
Guest
Cooper
5 years 10 months ago

This was brutal to watch on the out of town scoreboard in Atlanta yesterday. As was the game ending dp… oy.

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 years 10 months ago

Now that the giants have clinched, I think we can call Zito’s disaster a blessing in disguise. A start that bad might have been the only way that Bochy and co. would realize that they can’t throw Zito out there in the playoffs. I hope they stash him in the pen as an emergency arm.

Rama Lama Fa Fa
Guest
Rama Lama Fa Fa
5 years 10 months ago

Awesome that Klassen even rips off other writers in his comments. “Your mileage may vary”. Calcaterra-ese right there. Good on ya.

Travis
Guest
Travis
5 years 10 months ago

Yeah, because YMMV hasn’t been used on Internet forums for years or anything.

Derp.

Craig Calcaterra
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

If I invented YMMV, I want A LOT of money in residuals, because everyone on the planet uses it.

wpDiscuz