Barry Zito has given the San Francisco Giants fans nothing short of 126 million reasons to hate him.
As excited as the Giants' organization and fanbase had been to get the former Cy Young Award winner (can you believe he used to be that good?), San Francisco quickly came to despise the pitcher who all but robbed the bank of one of baseball’s most storied franchises.
In the five seasons that Zito has pitched for the Giants (2007-11), he's posted a horrendous 4.55 ERA to go with a 43-61 record in over 800 IP. That fell far short of the Giants' expectations of him. San Francisco had reason to believe that there was still something left of the pitcher who won 23 games in 2002.
That said, the argument that he was overrated certainly has merit: Zito had hovered around a .500 winning percentage from 2003-06 and never had an ERA below 3.30. The Giants were expecting a miracle to reappear from the shadows of a one-hit wonder.
Fast forward to 2012 and actually, Barry Zito has been impressive by his (albeit low) standards. As of 9/22, Zito has 13 wins and an ERA just above 4.00.
But the Giants have finally become accustomed to the results they will be getting when they put Zito on the mound. It is not Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner out there, but a mediocre pitcher who can occasionally put together good starts.
If the ultimate judge of a pitcher is whether or not his team gets a “W” when the lights go off after the game, Zito has been outstanding. Yes, Barry Zito with his 4.18 ERA and his 84 MPH fastball has actually been outstanding in something.
The Giants have won every single one of Zito’s past nine starts. A perfect 9-0.
Granted, the Giants have managed to amass over six runs per game for Zito during that stretch but the end result is what matters, and the end result has been quite pleasing of late.
Believe it or not, Zito has actually put together an impressive month of September even by a traditional pitcher’s standards, having a 3-0 record to complement an impressive 2.66 ERA and only five walks in 23.2 IP. (He still has one more start in September to blow it though so the jury is still waiting to see if the real Barry Zito will please stand up.)
Is this enough to satisfy Giants fans? Certainly not. The stress he has caused and games he has lost are still all too fresh in the city by the bay.
But is there a way out for Barry Zito? Now that is a much more complicated question. If he manages to continue to put together starts that may not be stellar but get the job done, it is a realistic possibility.
Especially if the Giants make a deep playoff run supported by Zito in the back-end of the rotation, who knows? Baseball is a funny game that is based on one fundamental idea: what have you done for me lately?
Look no further than the demise that has been Tim Lincecum. The Freak has two Cy Young awards to his name but the Giants no longer trust the former ace who led the Giants to lose 12 out of his first 14 starts of the 2012 season.
As Lincecum has shown, the “what have you done for me lately?” philosophy will get you nowhere if the results are not consistent. Recently it has been looking better for Zito, no doubt. When it comes down to crunch time will be the true test of Zito’s grit (or whatever is left of it).
Barry Zito has the power to change Giants fans opinion of him in the next month. If he does not do it now, he may have cemented his unfortunate legacy as the most overpaid Giant of all time.
No pressure, Barry.
Be sure to read more Giants writing at Bases and Baskets, including a comparison of the 2010 World Series champions to the 2012 Giants team!