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.