At $18.5 million this season, Barry Zito is the highest paid under-performing pitcher in baseball. His numbers have gotten so bad that it's very possible he doesn't make it through an entire season in the majors this year.
The former CY Young award winner is entering his sixth season with the San Francisco Giants and he's come nowhere near the same player that he was with the Oakland Athletics. But with so much money still invested in the 33-year-old, the Giants are obligated to have faith that he'll come around soon. In fact, they've said those same words the past five seasons and have yet to watch him follow through on them.
Injuries hampered Zito from making another run at reviving his career last season, and now competition in the rotation has his back against the ropes. Is this the year the Giants finally can their $126 million investment? I think so.
Here are 10 reasons why I think Zito won't make it through the season.
Like his loss totals, Zito's ERA has gradually crept upward since he left Oakland. Batters are getting very accustomed to driving in runs off Zito in the latter part of his career.
Zito's worst ERA came in the 2004 season when he posted 4.48 and an 11-11 record. Zito's ERA was fairly high and naturally he struggled. In San Francisco, Zito's ERA hasn't gone below 4.00 and his worst came last season with a 5.87.
The higher Zito's ERA, the more he struggles to win games and stay in control on the mound.
One of the main reasons the Giants went after Zito was for his winning percentage as a starter, and in the past five seasons that winning percentage has taken a drastic decline.
In his last season with the Oakland Athletics, Zito had a 16-10 record and never sank below .500 the previous six seasons. With the Giants, Zito hasn't hit .500 in any of his five seasons. The strikeout numbers are there but for some reason Zito can't win games.
After two foot injuries and a car accident in 2011, Zito is still trying to get his legs beneath him on the mound.
When Zito returned to the team last season after his first foot injury, he pitched out of the bullpen before getting re-injured in Triple-A. The starts Zito made this spring have been his first starts since the injury, and they haven't gone all that well.
I'm not saying his past injuries are the reason for his poor performance, but you have to wonder if they're still bothering him.
Zito's future in the rotation is hanging in the balance with minor leaguer Erik Surkamp close on his heels this season.
Surkamp shined in the minors in 2011, but when the Giants gave him his shot in the big leagues he didn't have the same success. In six starts, Surkamp struck out 13 batters and posted a 5.74 ERA. Not the best start to his major league career, but Surkamp is still young and has plenty of growing to do.
With the recent news of San Francisco signing Matt Cain to a new $127.5 million contract and Tim Lincecum likely next in line for a new deal, it's pretty clear the Giants' front office isn't making anymore dumb decisions with the salary cap.
Signing Zito to a six-year $126 million contract was one of the worst moves in Giants baseball history. Now that they have a solid group of starters ahead of Zito, they should be looking to get rid of his bloated contract at every possible moment.
San Francisco needs to get rid of the dead wood, and that just so happens to be Zito.
The Giants have become so frustrated with Zito's lack of success that they've asked the former Cy Young award winner to watch 49-year-old Colorado Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer do his thing on the mound.
A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News reports that Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti asked Zito to watch Moyer pitch on occasion. The purpose of watching Moyer was to show Zito how a pitcher with less than average velocity can still hit his targets and strike batters out.
Things must be that bad if Zito has to get pitching pointers from other players.
With talk of him tweaking his delivery, Zito is scheduled to stay in Arizona to pitch in a minor league camp, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The move was made to give Zito more time to work on his delivery.
The Giants have shown they're committed to giving Zito the time he needs to get his delivery right, but a new delivery isn't the solution. By missing time in the majors, Zito is putting himself in a situation to play catch-up right out of the gate.
Just to give you sense of how good the Giants' pitching staff was in 2011, consider the fact that four of San Francisco's starters placed in the top 11 in ERA among National League pitchers. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong had strong outings last season. With four solid starters in the mix, Zito is the odd man out in the rotation.
Luckily for Zito, Vogelsong is currently on the 15-day disabled list but plans to join the team later after getting some rehab starts in the minors. Zito will have his chance to prove himself at the start of the season, but when Vogelsong returns he'll likely end up the fifth starter at best.
In 2008, Zito had the worst spring of his career as a Giant when he posted a 10.31 ERA through five starts. That same year, Zito lost 17 games and had a season ERA of 5.15. It was one of the worst seasons of his career and it all started with a bad spring.
Fast forward four years later to 2012, and Zito is having yet another bad spring with San Francisco. Through six starts, Zito has himself a 7.91 ERA and an opponent batting average of .405.
The numbers have looked very similar to that 2008 spring, and that should be a telling sign that 2012 has the potential to be just as bad as the 2008 season.
Now 33 years old, Zito claims the adjustment to his delivery is merely to gain momentum on his pitches. At this point in his career, it's a little late to be making changes to the basis of his pitching style.
It's obvious that Zito is desperate enough to try anything to get out of his slump.