Can the Mets Save Barry Zito? Fugeddaboutit!

Matthew GoodmanAnalyst IMay 1, 2008

In a recent front page article here at the Bleacher report, George Fitzpatrick wondered if the Mets can save Barry Zito?  He writes:

"Zito doesn't have those obvious reasons for decline [age, injuries] meaning his problems might be more subtle - his issues are probably mental or mechanical.


And if Zito needs a change of scenery and a pitching coach that can fix his mechanics - there is a team that seems like the ideal fit. That team would be the New York Mets.

It sounds insane at first, but when you break it down, it makes plenty of sense for both Barry and the Mets. First of all, Zito would be reunited with Rick Peterson, his pitching coach during his best years in Oakland. I'm not about to call Peterson a miracle worker, and it's not like he can fix any pitcher in 10 minutes, but he has worked well with two other extreme flyball pitchers like Zito - John Maine (who wasn't even successful in AAA before being traded to the Mets) and Oliver Perez (who looked lost 2 years after a stellar 2004)."

I respectfully disagree.  As I wrote in one of my blog posts about an April 16th game against the Diamondbacks, "Not so long ago, [Zito] was a Cy Young caliber pitcher. He was in the low 90's with his fastball, had good command, and could throw a devastating 12-6 curveball for strikes or bury it out of the zone at will. He also had a decent change-up."

Today, Barry Zito sits in the low to mid-80s with his fastball.  It is relatively straight and he can't even command it well as evidenced by 15 walks in 28.2 innings this season.  His curveball is still plus, with the good 12-6 action that was his calling card in his prime.  However, both his curveball and change-up move a lot, making it hard for him to get called strikes early in the count.  Plus, he leaves his change-up high in the zone, leading to some hard contact.

Since he can't command his fastball and it's incredibly hittable when it is in the zone, he essentially has no chance.  He used to get ahead on hitters with the fastball early and then bury them with a curve.  Now, he routinely falls behind and throws batting practice fastballs that get crushed.

Now, if Zito had an obvious mechanical flaw, there would be something to correct that might get him back on track.  However, Zito's mechanics look fine to me.  He stays balanced in his delivery, strides well to the plate, gathers his body underneath him, and firms up his front side just fine.  His arm action looks clean.  There simply isn't any life on the ball.

All of the mental games in the world can't fix a complete lack of stuff.  Since mechanical problems can be ruled out, either he's injured or he's simply cooked.  And I'm betting on cooked.  John Maine and Oliver Perez could be fixed by Rick Peterson because they still had fantastic stuff.  Barry Zito has no fastball, no command, and no chance.  Unless Rick Peterson actually does have magical powers, then there's nothing he can do to help Barry Zito rise from the dead.

The Mets would be fools to take Zito unless the Giants eat 80% or more of his contract.  Even then, he wouldn't fare any better in the NL East and its good hitting teams.  Sure, the Mets need a fifth starter and Barry Zito can take the ball every 5th day.  But unless you're willing to pay a premium to lose every fifth day, then there's no reason to get Zito.  They could probably call up a fringe guy from AAA and throw him out there for the same results (and at a much lower cost).

Plus, that money would be better spent this off season or in the draft.  There will be some good free agents on the market this year and the Mets have some needs.  Carlos Delgado looks to be done so the Mets need a full time 1B.  Mark Teixeira, anyone?  With the extra millions they could save by avoiding Zito, the Mets could make a much stronger run at Big Teix-y.

So, as a fellow Mets fan, I beg you Omar Minaya: Stay away from Barry Zito.