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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Castrovince: Zito exceeds expectations with sensational start

Barry diamonds: home invasions.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you caught the Giants’ decision-makers—or their fans—in an honest moment going into the season and asked them to rank which of their starting options they’d like to have on the mound in a must-win game in October, Zito would rank on that list about where he’d rank if you asked them to list their starters alphabetically by last name.

You get the idea.

But we are in an environment where substance trumps statistics, where reality is never in line with reason. And we are, therefore, in an NL Championship Series in which Zito just rescued the Giants’ season with 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 5-0 victory in Game 5 on Friday night at Busch Stadium—easily his best performance in their uniform and arguably the best performance of his career.

“Pretty good for an Italian boy,” said pitching coach Dave Righetti, and it takes one to know one.

This, indeed, was a “buona sera” for San Francisco—and Joe DiMaggio’s domain is precisely where this series is shifting for Game 6.

The Giants love their outlook for Game 6 and, if they force it, Game 7. Because now they’ve got a rested Ryan Vogelsong, coming off a splendid start in Game 2, and staff ace Matt Cain on tap to potentially send them to the World Series.

To get to that point, though, they needed Zito to do what Tim Lincecum could not—exceed expectation, plain and simple.

Repoz Posted: October 20, 2012 at 07:04 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants

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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 20, 2012 at 09:09 AM (#4277307)
I'll be the first guy to admit that I do not follow the Giants closely, as I am a northeastern fan of an AL team. That said, it amazes me that the Giants won 94 games, and have a reasonable chance of winning the next two games, and going back to the World Series.

A look at their lineup suggests that they are basically:
- one of the couple of best players in the league, in Posey;
- another guy who gave them 2/3rds of a strong season (Melky);
- three or four other guys who have marginal power, aren't afraid to take a walk, but don't look like anything special (Belt, Sandoval, Pagan)
- a bunch of guys below that

Then, you look at the pitching staff, and it has Matt Cain, two guys with league-average ERAs, and two high-profile guys who pithced like #### much of the year (Lincecum and Zito). The bullpen looks good.

Then, what strikes me is that this team has something pretty remarkable, in this era. The games started by their five starting pitchers:

33
32
32
32
31

That's five pitchers giving you all but two starts this year. Then, the innings pitched:

219.1
208.1
189.2
186
184.1

Their five starters averaged about 198 IP each!

The bullpen obviously threw very few innings, and very few innings per appearance. I assume effects related to this dynamic are a big part of how they are where they are...
   2. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 20, 2012 at 09:44 AM (#4277316)
Zito up, Lincecum down. I kind of like this turn of events that honors the God of Serendipity.
   3. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: October 20, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4277317)
Bumgarner and Vogelsong finished #11 and 12 in ERA among NL starters, and until late in the season had even better numbers. They were a lot better than league-average (the average team ERA in the NL was 3.95), and were a big reason why the Giants were 5th in team ERA. I was still surprised they won 94 games, but their starting pitching was clearly a strength.
   4. Darren Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4277326)
Zito was really fun to watch. Being an AL guy, I hadn't seen much of him in a while, but wow, that was a blast. Too bad there hasn't been more of this during his time in San Francisco.
   5. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM (#4277327)
Then, you look at the pitching staff, and it has Matt Cain, two guys with league-average ERAs, and two high-profile guys who pithced like #### much of the year (Lincecum and Zito).
They also have Madison Bumgarner, who's in the top 10 in MLB in FIP between 2011-2012. He might be one of those guys who just doesn't prevent runs like he should given his component numbers. But having watched him pitch, but I'd bet on Bumgarner competing for several Cy Youngs over the middle of the decade. He's damn good.
   6. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:38 AM (#4277338)
But having watched him pitch, but I'd bet on Bumgarner competing for several Cy Youngs over the middle of the decade. He's damn good.

Concur. He ran out of gas at the end of the season and got knocked around a bit, which I hope was just due to fatigue and not something more serious because he's an exciting young pitcher to watch (as well as a key guy on my Scoresheet team).
   7. dr. scott Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4277339)
So I only watched the last part of the game, but it seems that Zito's main accomplishment here was not walking guys (which by the way is huge for Zito). He allowed 6 hits and a bunch of line drive directly to defenders and a few great defensive plays by the Giants. The cards did not seem helpless ( except for Holliday) just average with bad luck. The giants didn't hit much better either. Apart from the two singles to open the 4th and he HR by Panda they seemed to be in the same funk they have been all series.

Don't get me wrong, it was great to win and I'm excited for Barry, but it seemed like he was a hit ball going 6-12 inches in another direction from being pulled early. The outcome was fantastic, but the route to the outcome was a bit scary. That being said I was at The public house (Bar in AT&T park) for the last few innings, and it was quite fun... Even got on TV in one of those slow scans of the bar. My wife regognized my nose. Good thing I told her where I was.
   8. Joe OBrien Posted: October 20, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4277357)
The Giants offense was actually pretty good this year. Part of the reason is they had very few black holes. Emmanuel Burris had 150 PA at a 44 OPS+. Everyone with more PA had at least an 84. Justin Christian had the second most disaster level PAs, and he only had 61.
   9. lieiam Posted: October 20, 2012 at 11:24 AM (#4277370)
I'd like to make a couple points regarding above stuff already mentioned:

Although Vogelsong and Bumgarner (especially) struggled late (well, Vogelsong actually struggled more "late-middle" of the season and then seemed to get back on track at the end of the regular season) so that much of the year they WERE quite good, when you factor in the park adjustment they both come out with a 103 ERA+ which is obviously not literally league average but pretty damn close.

As for Zito I think it's just great for him. He's taken so much #### for his struggles with the Giants through the years and after getting left off the post season roster in 2010 (and doing poorly in his one previous start this postseason) throwing seven and two thirds shut out innings in an elimination game is just awesome.

Agreed about the starts and innings for the five, that is very impressive. And in the first round they played Cincinnati who ALSO had impressive GS and IP totals:

starts:
33
33
33
32
30

IP:
217
209.1
208
202
179

And that adds up to 161 starts. And I'd say they (as a group) had a better season then the Giants rotation. In any case, very impressive HEALTH for both rotations.
   10. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 20, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4277393)
Really great to see Zito have such a great year and that game. I always liked him and was sad he didn't get onto the postseason roster in 2010
   11. dr. scott Posted: October 20, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4277426)
Zito's has had a pretty normal post As year. The only glaring difference is the giants offence got better, so he won more games with below average pitching. His whip was right in line with the past 6 years, Ks were down, but so were walks. HRs about the same as was innings. He's basically been a consistent 180+ ip 90 ERA+ pitcher for all but his injury year last year. This year he started off good and then oscillated between bad and good instead of starting and finishing poorly. Glad he's having another good postseason game. He had a good number of those for the As.
   12. depletion Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4277445)
Small sample size. They should have started Arod instead of Zito.
   13. tshipman Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4277452)
when you factor in the park adjustment they both come out with a 103 ERA+ which is obviously not literally league average but pretty damn close


Average ERA+ for a starter is around 95. Vogelsong and Bumgarner were both comfortably above average.
   14. Tom (and his broom) Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4277461)
A look at their lineup suggests that they are basically:
- one of the couple of best players in the league, in Posey;
- another guy who gave them 2/3rds of a strong season (Melky);
- three or four other guys who have marginal power, aren't afraid to take a walk, but don't look like anything special (Belt, Sandoval, Pagan)
- a bunch of guys below that


Yes...but...

this is also the lineup that had the highest OPS+ in the NL.
That scored the most runs on the road of any team in the NL.

Not sure I buy the severe park factor, but there is also the fact that they had no huge holes, Crawford and Arias were better than you think, Scutaro was insanely good as a Giant. Blanco was competent, Sanchez was surprisingly better than your average backup catcher.

They didn't hit a lot of HR's but they were a team built to win without a lot of HR's.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4277471)
angel pagan was white hot at the plate the last few months and along with posey helped drive the giants offense which is very underrated

pagan seems to have no body fight and tight muscles and the way he plays all out likely is injured most of the time but tries to play through it

but when mostly healthy the guy is lights out good in every phase of the game
   16. tshipman Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:54 PM (#4277477)
angel pagan was white hot at the plate the last few months and along with posey helped drive the giants offense which is very underrated


Pagan had a hot August, but cooled off quite a bit towards the end of the year.

but when mostly healthy the guy is lights out good in every phase of the game


I really don't know about this. To my eye, he was an average to below average defender in CF (something like -5 without checking defensive stats), and at his best an .800 OPS guy. He was a good pickup by Sabean (where are the Mets fans from that thread in the offseason where they claimed that the trade was a win for the Mets?), but he'll disappoint whoever pays him big money next year.
   17. zenbitz Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:55 PM (#4277480)
AT&T had a raw HR factor (ESPN) of .522 this year. That is abnormal - although it has fluctuated between about .596-.998 over the last 12 years.
I suspect the fluctuation is weather related (both wind and T)

The Giants hit 31 HR at home and 72 on the road. The pitchers gave up 53 at home and 89 on the road.

   18. zenbitz Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4277484)
I looked up Angel Pagan at the end of the season. I was surprised to see him at 4 WAR. Fangraphs has his defense as ~average and BBR at -6 runs. He gets almost an entire win from baserunning, and park factors adjust his OPS+ to 122.

   19. The District Attorney Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4277488)
He gets almost an entire win from baserunning
ANGEL PAGAN DOES???
   20. Tom (and his broom) Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:16 PM (#4277491)
On Pagan and baserunning...in spring training one of the old timers took Pagan under his wing and spent a lot of time talking base running...guy named Willie something...used to play a decent CF.

   21. lieiam Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:25 PM (#4277494)
@tshipman (comment #13):
Good point... I was (obviously) just thinking of 100 as league average in my attempt to say that post#1 is actually pretty close regarding the starting rotation of the Giants... but that does (assuming 95 is correct... it SOUNDS good and I'm too lazy to check at the moment) point them (Vogelsong & Bumgarner) to being comfortably above average for the year.
   22. Danny Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:44 PM (#4277498)
easily his best performance in their uniform and arguably the best performance of his career.

Or neither.
   23. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:53 PM (#4277505)
Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and say 7 2/3 in the playoffs beats 8 scoreless in a july game against a Mets team that finished under 500
   24. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: October 20, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4277540)
Pagan plays CF like a mule. Like a really fast mule with great hand-eye. But he commonly seems to just have no idea what he's supposed to be doing. His routes are frequently questionable and he seems to make the wrong decision on "dive or not" about 80% of the time. That's a scientifical statistic.
   25. greenback calls it soccer Posted: October 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM (#4277560)
I was at the game last night in case any Giants or Zito fan wants to buy a used PDF from me.
   26. joyjoykid Posted: October 21, 2012 at 07:38 AM (#4277856)
The bunt-hit RBI single Barry made in 4th inning reminds me of
game 1 of 2003 ALDS A's against Red Sox, in which Ramon Hernandez did
the same in a dramatic walk off manner.

The games Danny mentioned in [22] are great, but I would go with this
game because of it !
   27. dr. scott Posted: October 21, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4278007)
I was at that 2003 game. Mueller was playing way back at third. No one expects the catcher squeeze bunt!!

Unfortunately I was also at game 5. Pedro wasn't great, but good enough and Macha sends long up instead of dye with runners on and a chance to tie or win in the 9th. Pain!!!

It did, however, feature the collision between Damon and F Sanchez where Damon is knocked unconscience and wakes up waving to the crowd thinking he's still with the As. Magic.

During the injury time out three or four fights broke out in the stands, one in the seats directly in front of me. Fun Times.
   28. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Posted: October 21, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4278014)
It did, however, feature the collision between Damon and F Sanchez where Damon is knocked unconscience and wakes up waving to the crowd thinking he's still with the As. Magic.

During the injury time out three or four fights broke out in the stands, one in the seats directly in front of me. Fun Times.
I think it was Damian Jackson, not Sanchez, that ran into Damon. That series was my first trip to the coliseum and, after the family-friendly circus of baseball in Anaheim, the fights and general playoff intensity was a welcome relief.
   29. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2012 at 01:07 PM (#4278015)
oops/
   30. dr. scott Posted: October 21, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4278049)
Thanks for the correction. Yea Sanchez never really played for Boston that year ( less than 40 PAs). Definitely Jackson, who had just replaced Todd Walker.

Odd that I remember only the collision and 9th inning near comeback, with no recall of the only Boston runs coming off of a 3 run homer from Manny and a Varitek solo shot both off of Zito.

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