Barry Zito and the Last Chance Saloon

Less than 2 weeks til Pitchers and Catchers. So let's talk about 5th starters. Barry Zito is down to his last 2 years on his contract, plus a nice little bonus buyout coming. 19MM, 20MM in 2013 and 7MM to go away. 46MM isn't a lot if you say it fast, to badly paraphrase Willie Nelson. The Giants have decided to cling to the idea ZIto is a viable fifth starter, and are bunkering down to play it out. I got some other options the Giants might want to check out after the jump.

The first thing usually mentioned with ZIto last year was his velocity. Instead of sitting up in the 86-88 range, he was down in the 82-84 range. His 2009 fastball velocity avg (fangraphs) was 86.5. Last year it was 83.8. He has to get that velocity back or he's toast. He can't sling 83 mph slop.

The second thing that sometimes gets forgotten about is his car accident. Although he appeared to be OK physically, it might have taken its toll on an already fragile ego. He's always looked like a mental midget to me, being put in a life flashes before your eyes situation is some rough stuff. No idea if it did have any impact.

The third limiting factor for Zito last year was taking the comebacker off his foot. He was immediately shelved, and put on the slow road back, it is unclear whether this was a necessity or a easy excuse by the Giants to keep him shelved. It's easy to forget but his first 3 starts back he went 21 innings, gave up 3 ERS (on 2 HRS) and got the Giants 3 wins, before the wheels came off. Could the foot injury have messed with his velocity?

Zito's other big problem has always been a combination of not being able to knuckledown and fight hitters, spot his pitches and not give in. Yet another problem now is he seems to have no idea where the ball is going. So he serves up some batting practice (HR/9 ratio of 1.68 last year compared to career average of 0.96).

Still, his 2nd half of 2009 and first half of 2010 were not bad at all. In 2009 2nd half he held opponents to 239/321/679 with a 2.00 K/BB, 2.83 ERA and 1.291 WHIP. His first half of 2010 continued that to a lesser degree, 249/325/697 with a 1.76 K/BB, 3.76 ERA and 1.313 WHIP. Then the wheels came off. If he can get back to a league average pitcher, that would be a good thing. That year stretch of 2nd half 09/first half 10 would be incredible. It's a tall order though. And we haven't seen any PR Puff pieces this year about long toss with Wilson across canyons or anything like that. Apparently he is working hard with a pitching coach on the velocity, and famously got married and settled down.

My personal prediction is he won't get the velocity back, the Giants will make up an injury or seize on some excuse to put him down in Fresno (maybe to learn a knuckleball), and they'll go to their alternative plan(s). This seems to be a combination of stubbornly not wanting to cut their losses, due to Zito's good solder/nice guy status and the hope he can come back and be league average.

So we root for league average, with a healthy dose of that hope like hell stuff Sabey Sabes throws down. The Giants theme really should be Hope Like Hell instead of this Stay Together BS.

BUT WAIT... There is still almost 2 weeks til pitchers and catchers! They can still do something to shore up their plans! First off, coming off the success of Ryan Vogelsong, Sabey Sabes has scouts combing the globe for ex-draft picks, so far the Gints have welcomed back Boof Bonser (TJ surgery, won't start throwing til mid-season) and Brian Burres to minor league deals. Then they went out and gave Clay Hensley a conditional MLB deal. And lets not forget about Eric Hacker, even if he's most likely AAA fill in.

In addition to all these retreads, the most likely fill in is young Eric Surkamp, who was less than impressive with his BB/K's among other things in his MLB debut. I think he needs seasoning, but also shouldn't be judged too harshly for his first go-round either. Nerves could have contributed a lot to his curve not being thrown much, and his arm might have been a little tired from the minor league campaign as well. Surkamp is definitely the first line of defense and most likely the best candidate.

So unlikely its almost not worth bringing up, but Roy Oswalt is still out there. It'd be the baller move, to break into that RDF with a quick line-item slash, but its most likely not happening.

The next best thing might be oft-injured Cannuck Richie Rich Harden. One of these years he'll stay healthy right? Right? Lot of Oakland A's stink on that one though.

Other injured pitchers include Jon Garland (pass), twice rotator cuff surgeried Brandon Webb who is starting his pitching program soon and shelled in the DR winter league Scott Kazmir (hmmmm). And tall guy Chris Young, also a walking injury. And Javy Vasquez, who isn't coming near the west coast. With Brad Penny going to Japan that is basically the run of the SPs on the market still.

Quick poll: what should the Giants do with Barry Zito, and are there any guys worth taking a shot on before the Last Chance Saloon?

As an aside, I would have taken this lefty money everybody is up in arms about and sign up Paul Maholm. Perfect 5th starter, a lefty to balance our rotation, and the Cubs got him nice and cheap. 2/10

Maybe this is the year Zito lets all of it go and just pitches. The fan expectations, the contract expectations, the Boras Binder expectations. Maybe he can just block it all out, he's 35 years old and rich as hell. Contract is almost over, its been a bad beat for the G's. Maybe he can block it out and just pursue his dreams, just a dude and his Bentley. I doubt it, but I'd also love it. The BrainTrust aren't giving us many options on this one. And yeah, I think its the mistake of the offseason, assuming Matt Cain will get locked up no problem of course.

This FanPost is reader-generated, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of McCovey Chronicles. If the author uses filler to achieve the minimum word requirement, a moderator may edit the FanPost for his or her own amusement.

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