Giants, Zito sweep Rockies

Thearon W. Henderson

Alternate headline: Giants whomp on Francis like he stole their bike and hid it at the Alamo

Every bad word over the last six years, every comment made by opposing fans making fun of Barry Zito, every snigger and chuckle at his name. Barry Zito collected them all and stored them in a glass jar. Before Game 5 of the NLCS, he shook the absolute crap out of the jar and opened the lid. All of those nasty comments shot out of the jar like a swarm of bees in a Wu-Tang video or Wicker Man remake. They spread around the world seeking revenge. Sweet, sweet revenge.

Of course, the revenge bees are coming for you too, eventually. They'll be a while, but they're coming. You should probably get a screen for that window.

Zito spent his first game of the season trolling the Cardinals. He spent his second game trolling the Rockies. And what a magnificent job he did. Barry Zito could take the rest of the season off and have a higher WAR than he did in 2011 and 2012 combined. He's one behind his career high in runs and RBI. He leads the league in sac bunts, just one behind his full-season total from 2006 or 2007.

He went from second to third on a medium-deep fly ball to right field.

I mean …

That's 48-hour-marinated trolling, right there. Pitchers will throw at hitters if they steal a base up by five. I guess the idea is that no one likes to be embarrassed. By the transitive property of equality, I think this means Michael Cuddyer gets to let go of his bat in the middle of a swing the next time he faces Zito.

At the risk of being that guy, here's a gentle reminder that we've been through this before.

I Split W L ERA
April/March 4 0 1.53
May 2 2 4.50
June 1 2 4.30
July 1 2 3.26
August 0 4 7.76
Sept/Oct 1 4 4.66

That's how he started in 2010. A season in which he finished with the exact ERA that he finished with last season, mind you. Two good starts doesn't have to mean anything other than two good starts. It doesn't have to mean that Zito is back, or that he found his command when he was trying to pull the seatbelt buckle out from under the back seat of his Impala.

But it's better than two bad starts.

And I want to believe that a baseball player getting his confidence back makes a difference. I don't know if it's true, or if there will be any way to find tangible evidence that it's happening. But I want to believe that after six years of being a punching bag, that when things finally go right for a guy, it can help something snap back into place as if it were a misaligned gear. I don't think that's how muscle memory and athletic competitions work, but I'd like to believe it.

If you're on #OptionWatch2013, Zito has 14 innings in two starts. If he makes 30 more starts this year, he'll need to average about 6⅓ innings per start for the option to vest. Could happen. Probably won't happen. Could happen.

For the moment, Barry Zito is a regional hero and a national treasure. Remember, this is supposed to be the bad season that we were going to live with because the first four years of the deal were so great.

Star-divide

The last time the Giants scored at least nine runs in back-to-back home games is … wait for it … wait for it … last season. Against the Rockies. And just like that, you start to see the hairline cracks in the foundation of the Rockies' pitching staff.

In 2010, the Giants scored 38 runs in a three-game series against the Reds, so it's not like this was a historic pair of games, even by AT&T Park standards.

It was fun, though. It was fun.

Last year, there was so much hullabaloo about how hard it was to hit in AT&T Park, and for good reason. The Giants couldn't hit a homer in their own park, yet they were the best offensive team in the National League when they were on the road last year. As such, their park factors for 2012 were nutty and extreme.

If you believe in the park factors, you believe in ERA+ and OPS+.

If you believe in last year's ERA+ and OPS+, you believe that Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Joaquin Arias, and Hector Sanchez were all pretty close to average pitchers or hitters, give or take.

No one believes that. So as weird as it seems, I'd like the Giants to score a boatload of runs at home for obvious reasons, but also because it'll be nice to trust those metrics again. They're great when you want a one-second glance at the rough value of a player. But when the Giants can't hit in their own park, yet slug a ton on the road, they jerk those numbers around. That's annoying.

You just read a dork pining for aesthetically pleasing stats after a glorious sweep on the most beautiful day of the year. Maybe it is a little weird when you put it like that. But I don't like to think of AT&T Park as the worst thing to happen to hitters. For example ...

Star-divide

Buster Posey's has the smoothest right-handed swing in baseball. Come at me with your Miguel Cabreras, punks. I'll take Posey every time. It's like he cut off Tom Emanski's head, Highlander-style, and learned all his secrets. When Posey is going right, his swing never fails to amaze.

But if there's a spectrum of amazement, the far-right is reserved for his 410-foot drives into right field. They're so effortless. There's a period between contact and the ball leaving the top of the TV screen where there's a little ambiguity. Then your brain processes the sound the ball made off the bat, and you see the back of the center fielder. I guess it would be just as pleasing, if not more so, if the Giants played in Arlington, where a swing like that would usually be rewarded with a home run. But there's something about Triples Alley that makes swings like that seem extra impressive to me.

Buster Posey makes outfielders run a lot more than they usually have to run in other parks, I guess. And sometimes, he even gets a triple.

Star-divide

The last time the Giants lost a series against the Rockies at AT&T Park was in May/June of 2010. Since then, the Giants are 20-4 at home against the Rockies. For as many nightmares as Coors Field has given me over the last couple decades, it's worth noting that the feeling is reciprocal for the Rockies and Mays Field.

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