It has only taken him 83 starts, but Barry Zito is finally starting to pitch like the pitcher the San Francisco Giants thought he was when they signed him to seven year, $126 million contract in 2007. In case you haven’t noticed, Zito is one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.
In his first 18 starts of the season, it was more of the same mediocre pitching from Zito. He was 5-9 with a 5.01 ERA and was roughly giving up a hit per inning. By sending Zito out there every fifth day, the Giants were trying to piss into a Mr. Coffee and expecting to get Taster’s Choice.
It just wasn’t going to happen.
However, since the All-Star break, Zito has pitched like it is 2002 all over again (the year he won the AL Cy Young). In his last nine starts Zito is 4-2 with a 1.92 ERA and has held hitters to a .225 batting average.
It was Zito’s last start against Colorado on Saturday night where he really stood out. In the middle of a pennant race, Zito had perhaps his best start of the season. Zito tossed 8.1 innings of one run baseball and kept a powerful Rockies lineup off balance all night.
What I have noticed recently about Zito is that he is making better quality pitches with his offspead stuff. At the beginning of the season, Zito was missing so bad with his offspead stuff that hitters were just sitting on his 87 mph fastball. Any major league hitter can hit a 95 mph fastball if they are sitting on it, let along an 87 mph fastball.
Now Zito is making quality pitches with his offspead stuff, which keeps a hitter honest. He is not throwing his offspead pitches for strikes all the time, but he is missing close enough where a hitter has to respect it.
The Giants already have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitching like Cy Young candidates. If Barry Zito continues to pitch like he has in August, the Giants will have three pitchers on top of their game down the stretch.
That would be tough for any team to beat.