I'm not sure if I've ever been more nervous watching a pitcher as I was for Tim Lincecum's debut. After all of the hype and grainy YouTube videos, it was the first time most Giants fans had the chance to watch him. The results were disappointing, but the overall performance was not. He gave me the courage to cheer for the great pitching prospects, the serenity to ignore the middling prospects, and the wisdom to know the difference. Yea, be unto him.
Every Lincecum start since then has ranged from good to outstanding. Now my nerves act up more when I shave under my nose than when I watch Lincecum pitch. It's the same with Matt Cain; if either one has a couple of poor starts, they'll be indicative of a couple of poor starts and nothing more. They've both earned a certain kind of trust that transcends the minutia of a single game.
Barry Zito doesn't have that trust yet. I tend to analyze every pitch of his as if it means something. Every good curve in a 2-2 count is reason for optimism; every wild fastball in a 3-2 count is reason for panic. So, so much of the franchise's fortune for the next few years is reliant on him pitching well. If he pitches like a left-handed Mark Gardner with iffy control for the first year of his eleventy-year contract - and that comparison comes with all due respect to Gardner - there would be tears, wailing, and resentment heading into year two. It'd be a tough slog.
That's why it's so nice to watch Zito pitch well, and it's why I anticipate each of his starts with the same nerves I had for Lincecum's debut. The last two starts were evidence that Zito can be a good pitcher. It seems silly to write that about a pitcher with a long history of being above-average, but Zito hadn't shown anything in a Giants' uniform other than an occasionally nice curve that he couldn't locate.
Last night, though, he carved the Mets up. The fastball set up the curve. The curve had location and bite; it was hard to hit even when the batter was expecting it. He changed speeds on all of his pitches. It was just a fantastic start.
And I'll still be nervous as hell for every one of his starts for, oh, the next year or so.
Comment starter: Am I the only one? Or are the rest of you already in the "I trust him" or the "I wrote him off in February" camp?