Under the Microscope: Barry Zito

May 7, 2008

Watching tape of Zito throwing last night against the Pirates right now, and I have to say, although his stat line really doesn’t look too bad — 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, and 5 K — I really have a hard time believing the guy can be anything more than a back of the rotation innings eater, and even that is asking an awful lot.

Zito’s curveball is one of the most unique pitches in baseball. It’s big, soft, but all around one of the most spectacular pitches that any pitcher could ask to go to. But ask anybody around the game of baseball, and they’ll tell you that you can’t survive in the Majors on one pitch alone. The guys in the box are just too good.

Zito’s fastball has topped out at 85, and was usually sitting around the 83 MPH range. If you are going to toss 83 MPH fastballs to MLB hitters, it better have two things — perfect location and insane movement, ala Greg Maddux. From what I’m seeing, Zito really has neither. I can see that Zito’s fastball is pretty flat, and certainly doesn’t have the plus movement that he would need to make it even a useable MLB pitch.

Even more concerning is the lack of control Zito seems to have over the pitch, or all of those pitches for that matter, right now. Zito’s walked 17 guys over 33.2 innings pitched at this point, compared to just 16 strikeouts. It took him 99 pitches to get through 5 innings against a Pirates team that is just 23rd in baseball in walks drawn.

I’m not sure how much faith I can put in the MLB.com pitch trax thing, but based on what I can see with my eyes, and based on what MLB.com is showing, when Zito is coming into the zone, its because he’s coming right to the middle of the plate, right around the belt.

The Giants better hope that Zito figures out some way to either find some velocity or pick up some movement and start locating, because right now he looks like he belongs in the ‘pen as a long reliever at best, or perhaps he and his nasty curveball can become the first $126 million LOOGY.

Notes from Game 1

April 1, 2008

Exciting game last night. A few things worth noting:

– Doumit did not look very sharp behind the plate. The bat more than made up for it, but there was a ball in the 2nd i believe that he did a poor job blocking and let a guy get to 2nd, and another in the 9th that he inexplicably tried to backhand. Also, a couple of the close-ups showed he wasn’t doing a very good job framing the ball. I actually saw the glove go the wrong way on one pitch.

– Capps and Marte control..non-existant. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.

– Yates has a nasty looking fastball. Topped at 97 with some good looking sink. Control was an issue, as was expected, but when he hits spots, I’d have to believe he can be pretty dominant.

– Jason Bay..this could be a long year.

– McLouth swung the bat well. Couldn’t tell for sure, but his jumps on a couple of balls, namely the sliding catch in the ninth and a ball he had to go back on early in the game, looked a little slow. He gets a pass for not catching the ball that Bay missed in the 9th, because let’s be honest, everybody besides Bay just assumed he’d caught the ball. It looked like Bay even thought he was going to catch it until it hit the ground.

– The Pirates looked like a very sound fundamental club, minus a few small details (such as pop-ups to left field, but I’m ready to call that a fluke). I was happy with how Russell managed the game. After thinking about it, I like the sac-bunt that McLouth laid down with no outs and Morgan on 2nd (6th or 7th inning I think, can’t remember off the top of my head). Getting Morgan on third with Steady Freddy at the plate is a good move, as Freddy’s a high-contact-rate guy, and all he needs is a ball in play to drive him in. Unfortunately, Sanchez lined the ball right into the drawn in infield, but it was a wise call on Russell’s part none-the-less. Sanchez gets the RBI more often than not in those situations.

– The infield defense was very, very good. You’ve all seen the Jack Wilson web-gem double play I’m sure, but the play that saved the game might have been made by Jose Bautista. With SS Yunel Escobar at first and one out in the 5th inning, Chipper Jones hit a smash down the line. Bautista had to range way, way to his right to get to the ball, preventing a sure double, possible triple. He didn’t get an out from the stop, but plays like that are major damage controllers. Next play, Mark Teixeira grounds into a double-play, and the score stays 4-2 Braves, rather than at least 5-2 and possible worse. Those are the kind of plays that separate average teams from good teams, and good teams from championships contenders.

– Finally, Xavier Nady. Two home runs, both of righties. That man knows how to become a trade target. Now give us what we want Omar.

Gorzo Shut Down

February 28, 2008

Looks like Tom Verducci might have been right in pegging Tom Gorzelanny as a major injury risk in ’08. 

From Verducci’s article, which lists the seven pitchers most at risk for injuries in ’08:

4. Tom Gorzelanny, Pirates, 25 (+40 1/3 innings pitched)I cringe when I see pitchers with non-contenders show up on this list. The Royals were guilty for years of pushing young pitchers without the excuse of a pennant race (Chris GeorgeJose RosadoRunelvys Hernandez, etc.). Gorzelanny was 1-3 with a 5.77 ERA in September while throwing 639 pitches, his second-highest monthly total (by only five pitches) of the season. While Gorzelanny was passing his career high in innings, the Pirates let him throw 105, 118, 107, 107 and 117 pitches in meaningless consecutive September starts. Why? 

The lefty has already been shut-down with shoulder soreness before even taking the mound in an actual game. 

The article says Gorzo is expected to make a start on Sunday, as the team hopes that a couple of days off will help his shoulder heal up. This could be a little bit of nothing, as pitchers do periodically get minor soreness that really means nothing, or this could be a major red flag of a disastrous ’08 to come. Verducci hit the nail on the head

Sad Day in Pittsburgh; RIP Myron

February 28, 2008

Myron Cope passed away yesterday at the age of 79. Cope, perhaps the most well-known personality in Pittsburgh, had been broadcasting Steeler games since the early 70’s, all the way through until 2005, when health concerns forced him into retirement.

I’ve got a couple articles I’d highly suggest. This Gene Collier piece is a great biography of Cope’s life, and I highly, highly recommend it. Also, a couple articles from Robert Dvorchak here and here.

There isn’t a whole lot more for me to say beyond those three articles, as they pretty much cover everything. Myron Cope is perhaps the most prolific figure in Pittsburgh sports history, easily surpassing Bradshaw, Swann, Stargell, Jagr, or even maybe Lemiuex. I think it’s very fair to say that the only comparable figure is that of Roberto Clemente, and that is really saying something about Myron.

Steeler games won’t be the same without you Myron. Rest in peace, and mm-hah, don’t worry about us. We’ll be sure your towels are waived with pride every time we take down the Bungals, Birdies, and especially the Brahnies. 

Pens Big Movers at the Deadline

February 26, 2008

Marian Hossa

 Marian Hossa Takes the Pittsburgh Penguins from very good to hands-down favorite in the NHL’s Eastern Conference


Evidently Penguins GM Ray Shero thinks the Pens are ready to make a run for the Stanley Cup, trading away crowd favorites Colby Armstrong and Erik Christiansen, along side super prospect Angelo Esposito and a first round pick to the Trashers for offensive threat Marian Hossa and right winger Pascal Dupuis, according to the Post-Gazette. The Pens had already addressed their defensive needs by acquiring Hal Gill from Toronto.

There are definitely long term ramifications to the deal, which I will get to shortly, but first I’d like to congratulate my fellow Yinzers on officially boasting the best paper team in hockey. It’s a good feeling to be a favorite to win the cup.

Not that the Pens offense had been sputtering by any means, but the addition of Hossa, who’s vision and abilities will be welcome along side either Sid the Kid or Evgeni Malkin, officially make the Pens the most explosive team in the NHL, if not one of the most explosive ever.Think about it: Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Sergei Gonchar and Petr Sykora on the same power play unit?!?! That’s three 100 point scorers, the league’s leading power play assist man, and a guy who’s tied for 8th in the NHL in power play goals. That’ll even have Martin Brodeur shaking in his pads.

From what I gather, Dupuis should be capable of filling into Colby Armstrong’s role as far as talent goes, though he’s a bit weaker offensively and doesn’t have the upside or Armstrong — Dupuis will turn 30 near season’s end. The significant downgrade here is in the oft-discussed chemistry department. Armstrong and Crosby were best friends on and off the ice, and though I doubt it will really be that big of a deal, chemistry can be a very big deal in hockey.

As unbelievable as the Hossa deal is, the acquisition of Gill from Toronto is possibly equally as important. The Pens glaring weakness all year besides some inconsistency early on from the offense and goaltending has been the failure of the defensemen to really impact the game. Gill is a shut-down defender, and plays as physical as any defensemen in the NHL. He comes with a reputation of being able to stifle any team’s premiere scorer, and offers the Pens another physical presence in their own zone beyond Brooks Orpik.

The Pens are a much better team right now because of this deal, but two glaring questions have to be answered: Does this deal make the Pens better 3 years from now? And was it worth it to send away 3 quality players, plus 3 draft picks to get back what we did?

The answer to the first question really depends on what the Pens intend to do with Hossa. The 29 year-old winger is in the last year of his contract, and will be an unrestricted free-agent at season’s end. I highly doubt that the Pens will be able to keep Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, and Marc-Andre Fluery all under the cap long-term.

Crosby’s making $8.7 million a year until 2013, and Malkin will be due for a raise into the $7-9 million range sometime between this summer and next. Fluery is making $1.6 million right now, and will get a new deal after this off-season, probably in the $3-4 million range. Either way, when the Pens decide that Marc-Andre is or isn’t the future of the franchise, they will need to dish out $5-7M at least on a solid goal-tender to be competitive long-term.

My guess is Hossa would be due somewhere between $6-7M per year to sign long-term, which I think would be affordable, though I really don’t know enough about the NHL salary system to say for sure that the Pens could make that work.

If the Pens make a good run at the Cup this year, as they should with this squad, and they can resign Hossa long-term, which is a solid maybe, then this deal could go down as a genius move by Shero. I was a huge Erik Christiansen fan, and the fact that Sid and Colby were best buds on and off the ice definitely counts for something. But in the more I look at it, and the more encouraged I feel that the Pens could resign Hossa — as false as the encouragement may be — I really, really like this deal.

If nothing else, it means Lord Stanley could be returning to the ‘Burgh, where it rightfully belongs.

2008 NL East Preview

February 25, 2008

Decided to just post all of these at BuccoBlog. Hope you enjoy.

2008 NLCD Preview

February 24, 2008

2008 NLCD PreviewI’ll probably post the rest of the divisions on here as I get to them.