My, oh my, how does it happen? One year, you go 23-5, and win the AL Cy Young Award, narrowly edging out Pedro Martinez, regarded by many as one of the best pitchers, ever. Fast forward from 2002 to 2008, and the Barry Zito we once knew, is no longer there. He is a shell of his former self. So, how does a man who once threw 6 consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings of baseball, go down so easily?
What goes into factoring the decision that Barry Zito could in fact be the worst Free Agent signing in the history of the MLB? Wait, scratch that, what about Professional Sports? Okay, that may be taking that a little too far, but let's dig a little deeper before we make an exact verdict on the case.
Make no mistake, Barry Zito is one of my favourite players in Major League Baseball. He is one of the few dominant left handed pitchers we have known in the last decade or so. I met him when he was with the then AAA Vancouver Canadiens, after he threw 6 strikeouts while surrendering 1 earned run in 6 innings of work, and I have followed him closely throughout his time with Seattle, Oakland, and now San Francisco. I can't explain it, why is he 0-7?
Last year, he did go 11-13 in 33 starts, and I gave the Giants a mulligan on that one. But how many more times can you lose before your confidence completely dies out?
He's been nothing short of god awful. I'll be the first to admit that. In approximately 38 innings of work this season, Zito has surrendered 46 hits, 32 runs, with 26 of them earned! Couple that with the fact that he is on pace (if he matches his 34 games he appeared in) to smash his 105 Earned Run total with 160 (approximated numbers), and you have the right to be judgemental.
But was this the worst signing in the MLB? Does it rival ones of Mike Hampton, Francisco Cordero (arguably), and BJ Ryan, amongst other pitchers? Before you come to conclusions, you should probably take a long glance at the Giants themselves, before jumping ahead.
The Giants are currently second last in Runs Scored (129), ahead of the mediocre San Diego Padres by 10), and only the Colorado Rockies, who play at Coors Field, one of the most hitter friendly parks known to man today, allow more Runs (The Rockies allow 189, 15 more then the 174 mark the Giants allow). And while the Giants lead the NL with 39 Stolen Bases, they sit 9th in average (.256), dead last in Runs (127), in the lower tier of On Base % (.314), and sit 13th in Slugging and OPS. The only thing they aren't in the double digits for in Pitching, is Saves, where they sit 6th with 10.
Here is one more interesting tidbit of information for you. BJ Ryan, the Toronto Blue Jays Closer, was given a similar, out of this world deal by the Toronto Blue Jays, back in 2005. BJ signed on the dotted line for 5 years, $47 Million Dollars. 3 years is generally unheard of for a Closer, but 5 years?! It was one of many JP Riccardi hiccups. BJ, unlike Barry, was very productive in his first year with the Jays, racking up a career high in saves (38) and the Win for the AL in the All Star Game in Pittsburgh. But BJ spent the next year on the DL for the most part, with Tommy John Surgery.
So, what am I getting at here? The magnitude of that deal, compared to Zito's, has a bigger impact then most would think. Zito has an average yearly salary of 18 million, and he pitched 196 innings, 4 less then his previous mark of 200 innings for 6 straight years. BJ, on the other hand, has an average salary of 11 million, and pitched a total of 76 innings. The difference in Salary is 39%, while there is a 62% difference in Innings Pitched. Meaning, BJ Ryan makes $144,736 thousand dollars per inning! Zito, takes $91,836 per inning.
So to all the casual band wagoner fans, don't be so quick to judge Zito. You may not know what you're really getting into.
Author's Note: Stats are from Baseball Reference, ESPN, and Yahoo! Sports. A Special Thanks to Andrew, from Sportsnet, for the calculations of the Zito and Ryan deal at the end of the article.