“Let’s go Zito” won’t set any records for originality, but it’s the thought that counts. And who would have thought at any time in 2007, ’08 or the first half of ’09 that Barry Zito would have anybody chanting his name in any way other than vitriolic?
He may never throw another 9-inning complete game, but Zito has established himself as the strongest Rockie-killer on the staff. Check out his four starts this year against Colorado:
May 3: 7.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K (1-0 Loss)
Aug 28: 6.0 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 3 H, 6 BB, 4 K (6-4 Loss)
Aug 29: 8.1 IP, 1 R (1 ER), 8 H, 1 BB, 7 K (5-3 Win)
Sep 15: 7.0 IP, 2 R (2 ER), 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K (10-2 Win)
Total: 28.1 IP, 24 K, 0.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
I don’t trust radar guns anymore, so the fact he was hitting 88 mph on television doesn’t make me think he’ll ever be a Cy Young winner again. The guys is strong, though, as anybody who’s ever seen him play long toss with a teammate before a game could attest.
It’s almost impossible to imagine how Zito could ever walk 6 batters in a game after watching him throw the ball on a line from right center to the Giants’ bullpen an hour or so before he starts. Every throw Zito makes from that distance, a distance which seems to be the most comfortable and beneficial for Zito throughout his entire career, hits Zito’s teammate right at his chest. It’s almost enough to make one wonder if it was in fact Brian Wilson, not Zito, who lost more balls down the canyon they threw long toss across during their much-ballyhooed off-season workout program.
Zito’s pretty strong mentally, too. He’s been throwing harder and with more conviction all season, but that San Diego game before the All-Star Break wiped the small amount of goodwill Zito had built up to that point completely away. 9 runs allowed, a new ERA over 5.00, and Zito would have been lucky to hear “Zito sucks” chanted in his direction. After everything that’s happened over his first two seasons in San Francisco, it would have made sense for Zito to crawl back in his shell, drop his Twitter page (he did) and “The Unicorn Hour” (he didn’t).
All he did was stop worrying about the Giants’ lack of offensive support (on the mound, anyway) and throw up the best second half he’s had since, well, maybe ever. 2.36 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 61 K’s in 72.1 innings. Forget the win/loss record — although for Zito, 5-3 is pretty awesome. For lack of a better phrase, Zito’s feeling it right now. He’s got the Zito Death Stare, the Zito “I’m cursing at myself for giving up my first run of the game” deal that he never had before, and he even has 9 sacrifice bunts this year after collecting only 8 in 2007 and 2008 combined.
So Zito gets his own chant, and he actually deserves it for the right reasons for once. And I hope Zito enjoys the first vocal bit of acceptance I’ve heard him receive in San Francisco that actually meant something. Part of me has a hard time believing Zito’s earned it (although I would say Zito was worth all $126 million if he’d suck it up and pitch an entire series in Colorado, regardless of how he finished the last four years of his deal), but in reality he has earned a little fan adoration. The Giants’ season is rescued from the depths yet again, and he’s a big reason why.