Barry Zito: For What it's Worth

Evan Aczon@TwoSeamGripeSenior Analyst IJune 8, 2008

I've heard a lot of talk about people ripping Barry Zito as being considered the "Ace" of the rotation.

Everyone knows that Lincecum and Sanchez are pitching the best out of the starters right now, and that Lincecum IS in fact, the real ace of the team. But number-one starter is just a title.

If you look back, Zito was never the number one in Oakland. Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder were in FRONT of him, so give him a break for that. He's never been the best pitcher on his team.

That being said, today's game is going to be good, because he pitches well in hot weather (see 5/23 FLA). He knows he's not the best, he knows he has to change something, and he's doing it. He's getting there.

Zito is at a crossroads and it might take a couple months to finally realize and then put in to practice the new style of pitching he needs.

He'll be most successful in the rest of his career as a middle of the rotation guy who pitches craftily like Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, or to use a more appropriate example, Kirk Rueter, another sub-85 Giants' lefty. Give him time, a whole new pitching style isn't realized in two months.

Also, a lot of the reason that people find it easy to dislike Zito is because of his lucrative, seven year contract worth around $126 million. But there's more to this than meets the eye. Much more.

A majority of fans don't see this contract for what it really is. This was Peter Magowan's big pull for the post-Bonds era. He's not getting paid that much because of his performance, not at all. It's the intangible things that make this contract what it is.

He gets paid to be the anchor of a rotation that is being built around him with young, up and coming talent who are poised to be the next generation of Cy Young winners. He gets paid to be a clubhouse boon, someone that everyone gets along with. He gets paid to be the face of the franchise.

Remember, he was signed and given a locker next to Barry Bonds, the former face of the Giants. This was the transition period where Giants' brass expected the face of the team to shift from Bonds to Zito.

It is the intangible things like these that constitute Barry Zito getting so much money, the things that needed to be bought by the Giants with the departure of Barry Bonds so imminent.

So, when you look at Barry Zito and his poor performance this year, don't look at it as him being paid $700,000 per win, or whatever it may be. Look at it as him being paid to BE the Giants for the next six years. It's a lot more than performance, and it's a lot more than Barry Zito.

That being said, I feel that, with the transition to a finesse pitcher, he will become more successful. Also, with the emergence of Tim "Franchise" Lincecum, the pressure will ease off of Zito.

I think that after the All-Star break, the rotation will not be as it is now (Zito, Cain, Lincecum, Sanchez, Correia), but will look something like this: Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Sanchez, Correia.

Remember, in 2002, when he won his Cy Young, Zito was the No. 3 ace behind Hudson and Mulder. The second half is going to be a lot better than the first half. I guarantee it.