Producing When It Matters: Barry Zito's Second Half Keeps Getting Better

Danny PenzaSenior Writer IAugust 9, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 02:  Barry Zito #75 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Major League Baseball game at AT&T Park on August 2, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Historically, Barry Zito has never done well in the first half of any season. That’s been proven to be 100 percent the truth and nothing but the truth even before he put on the San Francisco Giants uniform in 2007.

Whatever is the case, when the calendar flips to the second half of the season, Zito’s winning percentage goes up, his strikeout-to-walk improves, and the opponent’s batting average goes down.

In 2007 and 2008, Zito was awful in the first half yet somehow got things together to become a somewhat productive pitcher in the season’s second half. The problem was though, when Zito got his act together, the Giants were so far out of the race and their record was so terrible, having Zito being productive didn’t really help the cause.

People were skeptical of Zito’s success because of where the Giants were in the standings. The pressure wasn’t on the $126 million man because there wasn’t anything really to play for. The Giants were out of the race by the All-Star Break, so people wouldn’t really have taken his productive post-break outings seriously.

Things are a little different this year.

With the Giants actually in prime position to make the playoffs, Zito is not only being productive in the second half, he’s just continuing to do what he has been doing all season. The man who was such a liability before 2009 is now a key component in 2009.

His efforts against Cincinnati on Saturday proved that he is not the same pitcher he was the past two seasons in San Francisco.

What did Zito do to get such praise? Twirl a three-hit gem, allowing just two runs over six innings.

And this was when the Giants were coming off of maybe their worst game of the season the night before. Not only were there five errors committed, but there was a late-inning breakdown from the best bullpen in the game and just an overall momentum killer that might cause teams to go into a tailspin.

That’s exactly what you want the day after a complete meltdown like the Giants went through Friday night. There’s nothing better than coming out the next day after a complete mess of a game, having your starting pitcher go out there and putting everything that happened the night before with the team behind them.

And this was with Zito admitting that he "didn't really feel in sync.”

You’d like to think that his outing would’ve been better if he had his best stuff.

Even more impressive, the Reds destroyed Zito last year to the tune of a 0-2 record and a 21.32 ERA. That translates to 15 earned runs in 6.1 innings. Not good.

He has now won three consecutive decisions for just the second time since putting on the orange-and-black in 2007. His current second half roll includes what is the best four-start stretch in over three years.

So how good has Zito been in the second half?

3-1, 2.32 ERA, 31 IP, 27 H, 9 R (8 ER), 9 BB, 25 K, 1.16 WHIP

Yeah, that’s a pretty nice line for the first five starts after the break. But for Zito, this has been the norm. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with his winning percentage before the break of .468 and .663 after, Zito holds the most-lopsided difference since the All-Star Game began in 1933.

It’s only improving this year and that’s exactly what the doctor by the bay ordered.

With Randy Johnson on the shelf until September, if not the rest of the year, the Giants are going to need Zito to continue his second half surge. They don’t need masterpieces, they don’t need the Zicasso that Scott Boras promised during the winter Zito signed with the Giants, they just need solid outings every time out.

Somebody needs to pick up the slack and thus far, Zito has been doing just that. And they will need him to continue to do that pitching between those Lincecum and Cain fellers.

You wouldn’t think that he has been doing that if you just looked at his stats. Heck, an 8-10 record with a 4.40 ERA doesn’t exactly smell like a quality season.

Then when you take into account that he has the worst run support in all of baseball, you have to think his win-loss record would be flipped at the very least.

Those stats can be a little deceiving, can’t they?

He’ll have his occasional clunker, but this certainly isn’t the same Zito everybody wanted to dump after 2008 or even three weeks ago during the All-Star Break.

If he does go through a rough start in the next week or so, it shouldn’t signal any kind of trouble. He’s had rough starts before and has clearly bounced back. So to panic now would just be knee-jerking to the max.

But the way he’s throwing now, there’s no reason to expect one.

Keep it going Zeets. That Spring Training article about you doing well this year keeps looking better with every start.


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