Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Grantland (Jones): The End of Barry Zito?

Boras then had those numbers printed out on crisp white paper and tucked inside blue binders. Each of them was stamped with silver foil: BARRY ZITO, FREE AGENT PRESENTATION. That binder eventually won Boras and Zito a seven-year, $126 million contract from the San Francisco Giants, then the largest ever for a pitcher. But on that afternoon it was a just a binder, science’s rigid attempt to define the abstract. Boras gave one of them to Zito, who took it back to his house in Hollywood. He put that binder on his kitchen counter and left it sitting out as a reminder of the things that he had done and the things that he would do.

...

That binder destroyed Barry Zito.

Interesting article. I remember reading about Zito’s mind-over-matter philosophy when he was with Oakland, and always thought it was cool. I use positive thinking and visualization in my own life, but negative thinking and lack of self-confidence can be powerful things.

My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: August 04, 2011 at 08:20 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Ephus Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:49 PM (#3892980)
Thesis of the story: Zito's self-awareness from reading the Scott Boras' marketing binder destroyed Zito's ability to stay in the moment and, consequently, his ability to pitch. Much more likely explanation: (1) For the three years before signing with the Giants, Zito was a very good -- but far from great -- pitcher (ERA+ of 102, 113 and 116); (2) Zito pitched a lot of innings from age 23 - 28, averaging around 222 IP/year; and (3) Zito lost his confidence when he realized that he was not in the same class as Lincecum, Cain, etc.
   2. SteveF Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:54 PM (#3892984)
Zito never should have written that book.
   3. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:54 PM (#3892985)
Boras then had those numbers printed out on crisp white paper and tucked inside blue binders. Each of them was stamped with silver foil: BARRY ZITO, FREE AGENT PRESENTATION. That binder eventually won Boras and Zito a seven-year, $126 million contract from the San Francisco Giants,


I've always thought that Boras' presentation binders were done more to blow smoke up his clients' asses than actually get more money for them- from what I read the one he did for Damon really got some GMs amused....

What I found interesting about the article is that the author seems to indicate on one hand that Boras' computer projections were flawed because that is the nature of projections - but on the other he notes that Boras' presentations generally rely upon data mining...

Zito had been a very good pitcher through 2006, but he had not been an ELITE pitcher since about 2003- his age 28 BBREF comps were all good pitchers- but only 1 aged really well (Glavine) 4 were pretty decent and the rest pitched post 29, oh about like Zito has. The deal was not doomed to fail, but the actual results should not have been unexpected- it was the outcome you should expect about 40-50% of the time. He hasn't been terrible (at least not until this year) just not very good.
   4. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:56 PM (#3892986)
If Zito only remained what he had been — no better, no worse — Boras had projected that he would have more starts than Eppa Rixey, more innings pitched than Lefty Grove, more strikeouts than Warren Spahn. He would have more everything than his beloved Sandy Koufax, given his injury-shortened career.


And what are the odds of that? 1 in 20? 1 in 100? 1 in a 1000?
   5. Flynn Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:57 PM (#3892988)
He lost his stuff. A's Zito was 88-90 with a tremendous curveball. Giants Zito is 84-86 with a curveball that usually bounces off home plate, replaced by an average cutter. Meh.
   6. zack Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#3892989)
He lost his stuff. A's Zito was 88-90 with a tremendous curveball. Giants Zito is 84-86 with a curveball that usually bounces off home plate, replaced by an average cutter. Meh.


Well his stuff didn't just fall out his open fly. An extreme loss of focus or confidence could result in losing stuff. Accumulated wear is probably a better explanation, though.
   7. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:07 PM (#3892990)
Just to pile on, from ages 26-28 Zito accumulated 10.2 WAR,. which is 109th for all pitchers from 1947-2011.
The reason I'm going on and on is that at the time there were two local radio jocks obsessed with Zito, who had for years cooked up absurd trade ideas and who solemnly declared that it was a huge mistake when the Mutts "let" the Giants sign him.

When Hampton signed his absurd deal with Colorado, his WAR for the preceding 3 years had been 14.3
When Brown signed his $100mm deal, his WAR for the preceding 3 years had been 22.3.

Zito was a good pitcher, not a great one, and the Giants simply grossly overpaid.
   8. ecwcat Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:38 PM (#3893004)
This article was one of the reads I've had in a while. Thanks for finding this. I wonder if, once released from "burden" of the monster contract, Zito will become a crafty lefty junkballer and finish up his career very well.
   9. A triple short of the cycle Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3893007)
He never should have had his stuffed animals taken away.
   10. The Non-Catching Molina (sjs1959) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:51 PM (#3893011)
Zito never should have written that book.

Slow clap.
   11. jmacdonald Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:51 PM (#3893012)
That binder eventually won Boras and Zito a seven-year, $126 million contract from the San Francisco Giants, then the largest ever for a pitcher.


It must have been the binder. After all, the Giants' front office is known for being won over by recondite statistical analyses.
   12. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:54 PM (#3893013)
This is pretty similar to the Pat Jordan piece about Zito from 2008.
   13. Fourth True Outcome Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:01 PM (#3893014)
Someone had a breakdown of his mechanics (I belive ChadBradfordWannabe, but I have no idea where I saw it so who knows), the gist of which (again, if I'm remembering correctly) was that Zito's motion was almost all arm, and that therefore he was a very good bet to not age well. I put much more credence in something like that as explanation than a loss of focus or confidence. I will be curious to see if he can manage some manner of junkballer rejuvenation at some point, but for now I think the likely culprit for his decline is physiological.
   14. Traderdave Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:12 PM (#3893019)
I'd say it's a blend of several things:

-The confidence issue can't be dismissed. Zito's demeanor on the mound changed drastically from OAK to SF. The easy aplomb he displayed in OAK is gone. At times in SF he's looked downright scared.

-Yes, his stuff does appear lost, as Flynn says. He was never Aroldis Chapman but his velocity is noticably weaker. Is that due to physical breakdown? Obviously we don't know but it's not out of the question.

-One thing to remember as well is that Zito got a ton of pop-up outs in OAK's vast foul territory. He doesn't have that luxury in SF.
   15. Austin Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:25 PM (#3893026)
Zito must have been psychic, too. If he had a portrait of Carlos Santana in his bedroom back in the early 2000s, then he must have predicted Santana's eventual future in the majors when the latter was a preteen. (Har, har.)

Also, "I was actually kind of aroused [upon first seeing the presentation]"? That's, um, an odd choice of words.
   16. 3Com Park Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#3893028)
Zito hit a perfect storm when he signed the Giants contract. The Bonds scandal had really hit the fan and apparently Peter McGowan really pressured Sabean to sign Zito, although it's probably on Sabean that he paid about $50 million and two years more than anyone was offering.
   17. smileyy Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:52 PM (#3893052)
The synopsis sounds like the kind of armchair psychology Bill Simmons would lap up.
   18. Into the Void Posted: August 05, 2011 at 12:03 AM (#3893055)
The synopsis sounds like the kind of armchair psychology Bill Simmons would lap up.


It does, though if you read interviews with Zito from his Oakland days it doesn't seem quite as far-fetched. He would go on and on about people like Ernest Holmes and how "positive visualization" was the most important factor to his success. So it's not too hard to see how a couple of bad years could trigger a complete psychological meltdown and lack of belief in himself.
   19. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: August 05, 2011 at 12:17 AM (#3893067)
That's a very gracefully written load of crap.
   20. Squash Posted: August 05, 2011 at 12:31 AM (#3893077)
He lost his stuff. A's Zito was 88-90 with a tremendous curveball. Giants Zito is 84-86 with a curveball that usually bounces off home plate, replaced by an average cutter. Meh.

Zito was around 84-86 his last few years in Oakland, too. The fall of Zito from really good pitcher to above average pitcher occurred when the league realized he couldn't throw his curveball for strikes. Before he would throw the curve, then follow it up with a high fastball, and everyone would swing at it for fear it was another curve. In 2002 that seems like all he did, over and over and over, he would get these incredibly awkward swings on high fastballs. Then hitters realized that since he couldn't control it, even if it was a curve it was probably going to be a ball, and if it was a fastball it was definitely going to be a ball, so they stopped swinging at everything high entirely. Add the velocity loss and suddenly he was getting by on smoke and mirrors. He always had bad FIPs - with the Giants, for whatever reason, his ERA finally caught up to them.
   21. Traderdave Posted: August 05, 2011 at 12:37 AM (#3893080)
re: FIP and ERA, could the foul territory difference explain that?

(Sorry if that's a dumb question, I'm not aware of how FIP is calculated)
   22. puck Posted: August 05, 2011 at 12:37 AM (#3893081)
Too bad for Zito and the Giants that he can't make all his starts against the Rockies. He carves them up.

How did the Giants go from the team that signed Zito to the team that developed Cain, Lincecum, Sanchez, and Bumgarner?
   23. The District Attorney Posted: August 05, 2011 at 01:07 AM (#3893109)
Well his stuff didn't just fall out his open fly.
I dunno, how is Alyssa Milano pitching?
   24. KingKaufman Posted: August 05, 2011 at 06:12 AM (#3893232)
If some geriatric newspaper hack wrote a column saying that Zito was doomed by his big contract, which made him lose focus and confidence, everyone here would roast him. This is that article, just written more stylishly.
   25. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: August 05, 2011 at 06:19 AM (#3893234)
If some geriatric newspaper hack wrote a column saying that Zito was doomed by his big contract, which made him lose focus and confidence, everyone here would roast him. This is that article, just written more stylishly.

This. This was a terrible ####### article. Terrible.
   26. Alex_Lewis Posted: August 05, 2011 at 07:08 PM (#3893515)
I couldn't finish the article.
   27. Flynn Posted: August 05, 2011 at 07:17 PM (#3893528)
There was no there there (Oakland joke!). I kept expecting Chris Jones to explain WHY Zito's confidence dried up with a lengthier explanation using the contract as a jumping point, and he didn't. At all.

Zito was around 84-86 his last few years in Oakland, too. The fall of Zito from really good pitcher to above average pitcher occurred when the league realized he
couldn't throw his curveball for strikes. Before he would throw the curve, then follow it up with a high fastball, and everyone would swing at it for fear it was another curve.


I disagree. He got hitters to chase on the curveball, yes, but he also threw it for strikes fairly frequently. I remember Game 2 of the 2003 ALDS, and he got three called strike threes. He also got six swinging strikes, but they weren't curveballs in the dirt. They were strikes or just below the knees. It's not that hitters laid off his curveball, it's that his curveball absolutely became a worse pitch. He has a good hook about once a year now, and it's by no means the 11-5 monster he had in his years with the A's.
   28. AROM Posted: August 05, 2011 at 07:29 PM (#3893535)
He lost his stuff. A's Zito was 88-90 with a tremendous curveball. Giants Zito is 84-86 with a curveball that usually bounces off home plate, replaced by an average cutter. Meh.


The dropoff was gradual. He didn't drop 4 MPH as soon as he switched leagues. Fangraphs has velocity data back to 2002.

2002 87.1
2003 86.9
2004 86.9
2005 87.3
2006 85.8
2007 84.5
2008 84.9
2009 86.5
2010 85.7
2011 84.0

Also interesting that his FIP and xFIP from his last 4 years with the A's is not much different than his first 4 years with the Giants.
   29. Zach Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:27 PM (#3893571)
According to fangraphs, he went from 25% curveballs, 14% changeups in 2005 and before to 20% curveballs, 20% changeups in 2006 and after. At about that time, the curveball went from being a run better than average per 100 pitches to .25 runs worse than average (this jumps around a lot year for year, though).

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Harveys Wallbangers
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT: Politics - December 2014: Baseball & Politics Collide in New Thriller
(5155 - 10:49am, Dec 21)
Last: Ray (RDP)

NewsblogGetting ready to gamble on Jung-Ho Kang | FOX Sports
(2 - 10:41am, Dec 21)
Last: PreservedFish

NewsblogThe 2015 HOF Ballot Collecting Gizmo!
(161 - 10:36am, Dec 21)
Last: SoSHially Unacceptable

NewsblogMarty Noble's HOF Ballot
(11 - 10:29am, Dec 21)
Last: bobm

NewsblogThe Jeff Jacobs HOF Ballot: Keep The Voting Serious And Fair
(27 - 10:26am, Dec 21)
Last: Non-Youkilidian Geometry

NewsblogThe Yankees’ plan in case A-Rod can’t play at all
(14 - 10:23am, Dec 21)
Last: BDC

NewsblogRuben Amaro Jr. says it would be best if Phillies move on from Ryan Howard
(37 - 10:07am, Dec 21)
Last: BDC

NewsblogOT: Soccer December 2014
(320 - 9:34am, Dec 21)
Last: Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun)

NewsblogDodgers biggest spenders in payroll
(8 - 9:16am, Dec 21)
Last: cercopithecus aethiops

NewsblogOT: NFL/NHL thread
(9190 - 8:37am, Dec 21)
Last: PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth)

NewsblogGiants acquire McGehee to fill third-base spot
(5 - 8:33am, Dec 21)
Last: Greg K

NewsblogAP sources: Umpires, MLB reach 5-year agreement
(3 - 5:48am, Dec 21)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogAngels, Red Sox discontinue pension plans for non-uniformed personnel - LA Times
(23 - 4:00am, Dec 21)
Last: The TVerik of Lordly Might

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - December 2014
(762 - 3:19am, Dec 21)
Last: Win Big Stein's Money

NewsblogThe right — and wrong — way for Mets to get Tulowitzki | New York Post
(12 - 1:09am, Dec 21)
Last: Cargo Cultist

Page rendered in 0.3108 seconds
48 querie(s) executed