Ah, the yearly community projection series. Every year, I start them too late, and we inadvertently skip someone. Like, oh, the eventual Cy Young award winner. Whoops.
As such, it makes sense to start them earlier. And if we’re starting earlier, it makes sense to start with the players for whom we already have a little bit of information. Barry Zito, for example. We already know that he’s spent the offseason with Brian Wilson, eating space food and throwing baseballs across canyons, or something. Wait, or was that eating base food and watching "Spaceballs" with Christy Canyon? I can’t remember. Hollywood is weird. Whichever it was, Zito worked out really hard.
If you ignore what actually happened in real life, my projection last year was right on the money. I take pride in that.
ZiPS says Barry Zito will throw 173 innings with a 4.37 ERA. Most of the parishioners at the Church of Sunk Costs and Low Expectations would sacrifice small woodland animals in exchange for that performance. The thing is, though, is that most of the projection systems are fairly forgiving to Barry Zito. Baseball Prospectus has him down for an ERA of 4.85. For you abacus-twiddlers, that translates to 2.2 wins over a replacement pitcher. (Just for laughs: PECOTA lists Zito’s comparable pitchers as Vinegar Bend Mizell, who got his nickname from his hometown, Mizell, Kansas, and Russ Ortiz) The CHONE projections for Zito are similar. Over at Bay City Ball, they’ve posted the following projection:
So everyone is expecting Zito to be something close to an average starting pitcher. We’ll take that.
I can’t do it, though. After two years of positive Zito predictions, I’m twice burned, thrice shy. Throwing across a canyon isn’t going to improve control, and control problems are why Zito can’t succeed with a limp fastball in the tradition of Jaime Moyer, Kirk Rueter, or Tom Glavine. The velocity isn’t helping, but if Zito were able to locate his fastball, he would have a chance to be a pretty solid pitcher. And if my 3-point-percentage creeps up above 70%, the Bulls might return my calls. I’m done with the if-onlys.
Post your own projections, if you would.