Barry Zito has already won a World Series for the Giants, you know. When he was with the A's, he was worth an average of four wins over a replacement pitcher. In that first season with the Giants, he was worth 1.8. The Giants got a pitcher who gave them about two fewer wins than they were expecting. The Giants finished 71-91. If they had the Zito they thought they were paying for, they might have finished 73-89.
That would have given the Giants the 10th or 11th pick in the 2008 draft instead of the fifth pick.
Which means we'd be in the middle of an offseason discussion about Justin Smoak, and whether or not he still has a chance to start at first base. Maybe we'd be talking about Gordon Beckham and the best way to shoot him into the sun. This all would have put Buster Posey on the Florida Marlins, I'd reckon. The Marlins would have traded him to the Angels this offseason.
Barry Zito has given us a gift. It is the gift of Buster Posey. The contract is already worth it.
And it's the gift that keeps on giving. After 2010, many of us expected Posey to ascend and take us all with him in a column of fire that stretched into the heavens as the wicked remained to burn on Earth. And by "wicked", I'm mainly talking about Shane Victorino. And by "burn," I'm thinking a deceptively hot piece of pizza, with the tomato sauce burning the roof of his mouth. But the ascension never happened. That's a good thing, too, as another Posey-led Giants team is about to start the 2012 World Series.
But it's an odd feeling to depend on Zito. We're used to tolerating and accepting him only after he's measured against the replacement pitchers of the world, the Todd Wellemeyers, Ryan Sadowskis, and Brian Coopers. It's not just for Game 1 that Giants fans are counting on Zito, either. Because of the scheduling, Zito has a chance to start twice. If that was the Faustian bargain you struck before the season to get the Giants into the World Series, it was worth it. But the bill is due.
One of the stats I see floating around is that Barry Zito has walked 25 batters in 35.2 innings while Gerry Davis is the home-plate umpire. That's bad. One of the faceless stat drones at FanGraphs suggests Davis is somewhat stingy with his strike calls, but not that much. The drone used vector-based video-game technology to make heat maps. Or maybe they're stills of a game of "Tempest."
Baseball Prospectus, though, has Davis as a strike-calling ump when it comes to walks per nine innings this year, putting him in the middle of the pack. When it came to strikeout-to-walk ratio, Davis had the 21st-highest mark out of 82 umpires.
Maybe that's good for Zito. Dunno. Maybe it's bad.
Did you know I made a chart? I did! It details the break of Zito's curve as the season progressed. But if you don't want to look at the chart, it can be summarized thusly. When Zito's curveball does this ...
It makes hitters think about it, which allows this to happen:
Suck it, Beltran. That's what you get for being a really productive hitter in a Giants uniform.
All we can do is hope that Zito shows up again. And again once more after that. After that, he's free to do whatever he wants without getting any guff from a Giants fan for the rest of his life. He's already done what Juan Marichal couldn't, and that's bring a championship to San Francisco, even if it happened in a really, really roundabout way.
So now that we've proven that Zito is better than Marichal -- more Cy Youngs, you know -- here's hoping the Zito from Game 5 shows up again. We wouldn't be here without him.
The lineup for Game 1 of the World Series:
1. Angel Pagan - CF
2. Marco Scutaro - 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval - 3B
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Hunter Pence - RF
6. Brandon Belt - 1B
7. Gregor Blanco - LF
8. Brandon Crawford - SS
9. Barry Zito - LHP