At the end of the start, after all the action had finished,Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez were walking away from the field in the final shot, drinking cups of coffee, shooting the breeze, and talking about the death of Barry Zito's win streak. It was the standard denouement of a police procedural. Nothing too interesting.
But you should have stayed around for the credits. After the last name floats up off the screen, the cameras pan back to the pitcher's mound. Brief pause, and then, A HAND comes out of the dirt. It's the win streak's hand. It isn't dead yet. Cut to black. The lights go on in the theater. Everyone's stunned. The streak might have been killed, but now it's undead, roaming the countryside, looking for brains. And for bats to flail at changeups and dookieballs. But also brains. Because it hurts my brain to think about Barry Zito, automatic win, so I try not to.
This tweet got a lot of tweetbuzz in the tweetworld:
Barry Zito: 7 starts of 7+ IP, 0 ER since start of 2012 season (3rd-most in MLB).That's one more than Justin Verlander has.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 21, 2013
That's not exactly right. Felix Hernandez has nine, and Clayton Kershaw and R.A. Dickey both have eight, so Zito is fourth in that category. But even though it's an arbitrarily selected category, it's still a pretty freaking impressive category. He has more 7+ IP, 0 ER outings since the start of 2012 than Verlander, yes, but also David Price, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee. Zito has as many this year as Kyle Lohse, Chris Sale, and Max Scherzer had last year. He has as many in his first four starts this year as Stephen Strasburg, Jake Peavy, and Derek Holland had last year … combined.
Zito threw 71 pitches for strikes on Sunday, which isn't exactly a historical aberration in his Giants career. He's done it 30 times now -- almost a full season's worth. If you want to see a rundown of Zito's Greatest Giants Hits, though, follow that link and wade in the nostalgia. That list has Dodger domination from 2009, the baseball gods winking at us and giving us spoilers for the 2012 World Series that we were too dumb to pick up on, and a game that was all the way back in 2013. So what Zito did today wasn't unprecedented for him.
What it was, though, was another indication that when he throws strikes, he wins. Stunning, I know. But strikes don't always have to correlate to wins -- check out this game from Curt Schilling, for example. With Zito, it seems like there's a direct correlation. When he has command, it helps him even more than the typical pitcher. Maybe because the typical pitcher has a little more margin for error without his best stuff.
Whatever the case, Zito threw a lot of strikes today. He threw a lot of strikes two starts ago. I'm fond of the Gertrude Stein-inspired Zito tautology (Zito is Zito is …) because it's a way of saying there shouldn't be anymore surprises left in Zito's career. But if he suddenly has great command, which pitchers can develop after years and years of not having it, maybe this really is the Golden Age of Barry Zito.
But maybe! And if you're on #OptionWatch2013, note that Zito's on pace for about 190 innings this year. Just close enough to make you uncomfortable.
Here's something you might have forgotten, though: Yes, Zito has an $18 million option for next season, but the price to decline it is $7 million. Which means that if you consider that $7 million a sunk cost that the Giants are going to pay regardless of what happens, Zito would be on something more like a one year, $11 million contract next year if the option kicks in. If he keeps pitching like this, I'm not sure that would be automatically something to root against ….
Around June 30 or so, maybe it would have been time to run with a post titled "It's time to worry about Buster Posey." Until then, Posey's struggles were probably the most obnoxious storyline of the early season. For as high-profile as Posey is, he doesn't get a lot of attention as one of the streakiest hitters around. We know how Brandon Belt can run hold and cold, and the same goes with Angel Pagan. But Posey's been doing this since he came up. He was 20 for his first 45 in 2010, but then he was 8 for his next 52.
Before the injury in 2011, Posey had a 13-game hitting streak, hitting .380/.446/.440 in 50 at-bats. But before that, the "What's wrong with Posey?" question was all over the place, as he was hitting .241/.333/.366 before the hitting streak started.
Long point short: You'll waste an awful lot of energy if you look for things wrong with Posey. He's streaky. You know, like most hitters. The cold streak was just a little more visible this time around because the last time we saw him, he was in the middle of a four-month hot streak that was one of the most amazing stretches a lot of us have ever seen (non-Bonds category).
Posey has a home run now. Is that enough to snuff out the obnoxious storyline? Should be. But it probably isn't. The important thing is that Posey is good at baseball, and he's contractually obligated for the team we root for.
I think the Padres should just give Kyle Blanks to the Giants because a) they aren't really going to have a place for him when Carlos Quentin comes back and b) I enjoy watching human beings that large play baseball. His ceiling is what I'd figure the Giants think Brett Pill's ceiling is.
If you were living in my Baseball Mogul universe, Blanks would be on the Giants. I guess that's what I'm saying. But considering that Andres Torres is holding his own, even though he's kind of miscast as the lefty-mashing part of a platoon, we probably don't need to daydream about right-handed outfielders just yet.
(And then Kyle Blanks was like, hey, screw you fence, I'm a hit you with my face. Assuming he didn't really hurt himself, that was awesome. He's probably my favorite Padre, not that there's a lot of competition.)