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The Imperfections of Barry Zito

Last night's theme: It had to be Matt Cain. If there were a perfect game in San Francisco Giants history, Matt Cain had to pitch it. It's why the buzz is lingering, even more than you'd expect. It was Matt Cain. It had to be.

And on that theme, it had to be Barry Zito who pitched the game after the perfect game. That isn't to disparage Zito during a season in which he's been quite valuable. But it had to be Zito. If you're doing word association, Matt Cain pairs nicely with "everything good about the Giants and baseball and why I love baseball and god even food tastes better right now." Zito pairs nicely with "kind of a letdown."

Again, not fair. Zito has been good this year, and he's earned the right to give up a walk-'em-full dinger every dozen starts, especially when he got gaedeled on a 1-2 curveball to Jose Altuve to put the whole rally in motion. All we asked from Zito was competence. For the first two-and-a-half months, he's given the Giants more. But this was a game that was ripe for a letdown, regardless who pitched. And when you need a letdown, hullo, Barry*.

So it had to be Zito. And you know that before the first pitch, he was on the mound, chatting to himself like Charlie Brown before the first baseball game of the spring.

Zito: C'mon. You got this. Gotta back this up, baby. Can't let these fans down.

Altuve: /instant base runner

Zito: ****

Today's game was going to be a disappointment, even if Buster Posey hit a walk-off home run by punching it into space. And when you need someone to wear the letdown, well, Zito is a helluva choice.

It's June 14. On September 14, I'll bet that we'll be able to plot the respective seasons of Zito and Tim Lincecum, using runs allowed, and the graph will look like a big ol' X. Which isn't to say that Zito's going to collapse. Just that Zito will mix more of these games in with the good ones, because while he has a newish slider and renewed confidence, he's still the same ol' Zito. Some good stretches, some bad stretches. If your expectations are managed properly, you should be fine. He should be fine.

Today was kind of a drag. But check this out:

And you've already forgotten about the in-game unpleasantness from today. We'll get back to hemming and hawing about the day-to-day foibles soon enough, but today is still about yesterday. Zito wasn't particularly effective. It happens. And now it's forgotten.

* I'm not saying that Zito is always a letdown, but if I accidentally stepped through a time-portal, and I somehow found myself the manager for a rhythm-and-blues outfit in 1958, and they were looking for a catchy, upbeat, silly hit, my only idea would be to write a ditty called "The Letdown", and it would be loosely based on Barry Zito. The melody is already in my head. "Owwwwhhh, the letdown/Doin' the letdown/Yahhh, the letdown." Gold. Maybe platinum.


One of the things that got ignored last night were all them runs. Ten of them. Mmmmm. And a couple of them came off the bat of Brandon Belt, who had another home run today. He's now hot. When hitters get hot, they look like good hitters. When hitters are cold, they look like bad hitters. Please cite me if you borrow that observation in the future. And when Belt was cold, he looked like the worst hitter in the world.

Now, though, you can see how he can look good. It's been a while. But you can see how the swing works. You can appreciate how the bat moves parallel to the ground as it glides through the zone -- a swing that looks convoluted and herky-jerky when it's waving through an outside fastball, but elegant when it's crushing a hanging breaking ball from a lefty.

My own personal reasons for being a slobbering Belt fanboy aren't that complicated. He just fits with a vision I have of the Giants' future, in which Posey, Sandoval, and Belt comprise a consistent, homegrown middle of the order for the next half-decade, at least. I want it to happen so much, that maybe I was willing to overlook a whole bunch of flaws.

Then I started to overcorrect. Actively setting myself up for disappointment with Belt. Quietly grumbling when he came up to bat. I went down a dark path.

That part where hot hitters look great, and the reverse is true? That's why we have statistics -- to help us parse the conflicting signals that our brain is sifting through. And right now Brandon Belt is hitting .238/.353/.405. Disappointing in a way, but with a dash of hope. The slugging percentage moved from Burriss to Schierholtz in just one series. Not a sexy or thrilling line. But something to build on. A hot second-half, and we can start to check back in with that vision of the future. If there weren't a perfect game, Belt would be the story of the series.

But there was a perfect game, and Matt Cain threw it. The Giants lost today, but you can't really care that much, can you?