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Free Agent Profile: Barry Zito

Barry Zito

In Barry Zito, the A’s had an ace who could eat up innings, give them a chance to win almost every time he took the mound, mentor the up-and-coming pitchers, and have a positive influence on the clubhouse atmosphere.  In other words, Oakland had the complete package in their southpaw with the devastating curveball.  Now, another team will have the pleasure of welcoming the 28-year-old Zito to its pitching staff, the question is, which team will it be and what can be expected of Zito in 2007 and beyond? 

To predict the answer to those two questions, let’s first take a detailed look at Zito’s 2006 statistics. 

  • Record: 16-10
  • ERA: 3.83
  • WHIP: 1.40
  • BA Against: .257
  • Games: 34 (34 starts)
  • Innings Pitched: 221.0
  • Hits: 211
  • Runs: 99 (94 earned)
  • Walks: 99
  • Strikeouts: 151
  • Homeruns Allowed: 27

Zito’s base statistics are solid, though many teams would certainly expect more from their ace.  However, as I’ll mention in detail later on, Zito is not an “ace” in the normal sense of the term; the lefty is an “ace” in his own way.  Diving deeper into the world of Zito’s numbers, here are his “situational statistics”…

  • Bases Empty — Opponents BA: .264
  • Runners On — Opponents BA: .249
  • RISP — Opponents BA: .227 — very good
  • RISP w/2 outs — Opponents BA: .214 — excellent
  • Bases Loaded — Opponents BA: .391 — make that call to the ‘pen

Zito’s situational numbers are terrific, except for that dreadful .391 BAA with the bases loaded.  He holds opponents to less than 1 hit per 4 at-bats with RISP, which is an excellent statistics.  I use “terrific” and “excellent” as relative terms, in terms of comparing Zito to the rest of the MLB starting pitchers; the numbers aren’t amazing to the point where Zito can be considered one of the top-5 pitchers in baseball, but they do show that he can definitely get the job done. 

For some more info on Zito, let’s look at his “split statistics”

  • Vs. Left-handed hitters: .260BAA
  • Vs. Right-handed hitters: .257BAA — that’s right, he actually does better vs. Righties
  • At home (ERA/WHIP/BAA): 4.71/1.45/.275 — home sweet home, uh…NO
  • Away: 2.97/1.36/.240 — Barry likes going On the Road Again
  • Day games: 4.33/1.54/.265 — sunset is a welcomed event when he’s on the mound
  • Nightcaps: 3.58/1.33/.254 — that curveball has more bite at nite!

Zito clearly does best when he’s pitching in night-games on the road, and struggles when he’s on the mound during day games at McAfee Coliseum.  Most games are played at night, so that’s not a huge problem, but those home numbers are horredous, especially considering that McAfee is a “slight pitchers’ park”.  His road stats are impressive however, and that is valued by many a-team. 

As I mentioned earlier, Zito is not a typical “ace”.  An “ace”, as most people define him, has 5 components…

  1. Opening Day starter
  2. Best stuff in the rotation
  3. Gives the team a chance to win every time he takes the mound
  4. Pitches well when the team needs a win; can act as “skid-stopper”
  5. Durable; rarely injured

Zito fulfills 4 of those requirements.  He was the Opening Day starter for the Oakland Athletics.  He has the best “stuff” in the A’s rotation.  He stops losing streaks when the A’s need him to.  He is almost never hurt.  That said, Zito doesn’t meet the need for an “ace” to be ultra-consistent.  And there-in lies the problem with having the workhorse lefty as your #1 starter.  Zito is built to be a #2 starter; too good to be a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater; not consistent enough to lead the rotation.  He’s just short of the requirement for being a traditional “ace”, but Zito has the magic of staying healthy and that allows him to make almost all of his starts every season, while going deep into nearly each of outings.  Barry Zito is therefore most valuable to a team which already has a veteran ace but could use a #2 pitcher to eat innings, save the bullpen, and provide a top-tier 1-2 punch in the rotation. 

Which team is most likely to nab Barry Zito?

The answer to that question is the New York Yankees.  While other teams, such as the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, and Los Angeles Dodgers are sure to come calling, I’m confident that Zito will be George Steinbrenner’s marquee acquisition of this offseason.  With Mike Mussina likely departing because his option for 2007 is too expensive even for the Yankees, the Bombers will need a #2 who can recreate the terrific 1-2 punch that Randy Johnson had with Mussina.  Chien-Ming Wang, though terrific in his sophomore season, is not quite ready to assume that role, so Zito is the most likely candidate to fill it.  Like I said, other teams will certainly make the call to Zito’s agent, I just think that Zito will be spinning his “wicked” curveball at Yankees Stadium in 2007 and beyond. 

My prediction: Zito signs with the Yankees, agreeing to a 4year deal worth roughly 35million. 

Stats prediction: Zito will go 15-10 with a 3.80ERA in 2007, while K’ing 150-60 and recording a WHIP of around 1.45. 

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Tomorrow’s Profile: Carlos Lee

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Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s question (see — Free Agent Profile: Alfonso Soriano) was…

The Washington Nationals acquired Soriano from the Texas Rangers this offseason for 3 players.  Can you name the 3 who went to Texas in the deal?

The correct answer…

The Rangers acquired Outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge, as well as minor league Pitcher Armando Galarraga in the trade that sent Soriano to the Washington Nationals.  Sledge is now with the San Diego Padres. 

Today’s question is…

Barry Zito was drafted by the Oakland A’s with the 9th overall pick in the 1999 draft.  Which college was he drafted from? 

Hint: Zito first attended UC Santa Barbara before transfering to the SoCal school I’m asking for

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Here are the profiles planned for the remainder of this week…

Friday: Carlos Lee

Saturday: Daisuke Matsuzaka

Sunday: Juan Pierre

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One Response to “Free Agent Profile: Barry Zito”

  1. Hey Daniel: Shoot me an e-mail. I gotta talk to you about a writing opportunity. My e-mail’s in the WordPress comment. Sorry to leave you a message like this but I could not find contact info on your site.


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