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Barry Zito Confuses, Delights As Giants Win

You can totally pretend he has a lobster claw in this picture.
You can totally pretend he has a lobster claw in this picture.

When the lineup came out today, it was a pleasant surprise. Ryan Theriot was getting a rare day off, which meant Marco Scutaro could play second. When you mentally substituted Pablo Sandoval in for Joaquin Arias, you could start to see it. Yeah, yeah, this is a real lineup, and dammit Zito so much oh man Zito against the Cardinals?

That turned out to be an overreaction. Zito seems to be good at bringing out the overreactions. When he gets shelled, he's the worst player in the world. When he puts together a string of three or four good starts, talking heads ask each other if he's figuring it out. Throughout the maelstrom, Zito's been flippin' and floppin' his way to unpleasant competence, same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

We all need to be reeducated and learn a kind of Rifleman's Creed as we march around the room in our skivvies:

This is my fifth starter. There are many like him, but this one is mine.

My fifth starter is a frustrating mofo. He will have good games. He will have bad games. He will have games where he kind of hangs out on the mound, looking confused, doing both good and bad things.

My fifth starter and myself know that what counts in a game is not the runs they allow or the runners that reach base. It's that other pitchers would allow a crapton more of them of a greater stretch of time, even if that's hard to believe during the bad games.

So be it, until victory is ours and that damned contract is up.

The Giants are 11-11 in his starts. That's about right. And it's not like the Giants are scoring more runs for Zito than the other pitchers -- they average just under four runs in the games he starts. He wins some and loses some -- the take-a-penny/leave-a-penny dish of the National League. That's not to be confused with the actual Brad Penny, who is more the excuse-me-ma'am-is-this-your-severed-finger-in-this-plastic-dish-next-to-the-register of the National League.

That isn't to say Zito didn't look especially good tonight. He did. His curve was crisp, and his slider had break. He didn't walk anyone for the first time since his complete-game shutout in Coors Field. This was good Zito. Which we'll remember until the next time we see bad Zito. Which we'll ruminate over until the next time we see good Zito.

The Giants really needed good Zito tonight. It was a fantastic start, even after accounting for the hard-hit balls that found gloves.


Before we get to the Buster Posey feting, let's acknowledge the at-bat that Angel Pagan had to lead off the game. Without that at-bat, Buster Posey doesn't hit a three-run homer. Pagan is hitting .400 in August, and he's hitting for power. Heck, he's even taken four walks. It's sort of a cliché to say the lineup really gets going when he does, or that he can carry an offense. Every hot hitter looks like that. But Pagan's hot streaks do seem more noticable for whatever reason.

Now we return you to your regularly scheduled Buster Posey feting. Tonight, I remembered that he was 25 years old. That seems ... off. It seems like the Giants have been through so much with and without him, that it's hard to think of him as the same age as a rookie.

On July 7, Posey went 0-for-4. His season line dipped to .288/.359/.454.

Coming into tonight, he had hit .459/.510/.800 in the month since then. The OBP goes down a tick and the SLG goes up after tonight. If he does that in the beginning of the season, with an easily identifiable endpoint, there's wall-to-wall Buster Posey coverage on every baseball website, and every sports-news show. Instead, he's quietly staying hot, and occasionally he'll take a break to get hotter. He's as hot as I've seen a Giants hitter this year, and that includes Melky in May.

I'm starting to think this Posey guy is going to grow on us. Give him a chance, everybody! He seems kind of neat! Whale of a baseball player, I hear. Just super.


Things I will never take for granted: When a pitcher perfectly turns a double play on a comebacker. Not sure why that's the pitching equivalent to solving a Rubik's Cube with your mind, but it seems to be the most difficult thing to do in professional sports. You already know how to throw a baseball to a spot 60 feet away to a spot that's as big as a slice of American cheese, pitchers. All you want them to do is get the ball, and throw it to the second baseman covering in stride. It never works.

Jeremy Affeldt picked up his third save of the year because he displayed this rare talent. He looked like a closer, really. His strikeouts-per-nine ratio since 2009: 7.9. No, no. Not just his combined ratio since 2009:

Year BB/9 SO/9
2009 4.5 7.9
2010 4.3 7.9
2011 3.5 7.9
2012 2.6 7.9

Dude averages 7.9 strikeouts for every nine innings he pitches in kind of a creepy way. But I left that other column in there for a reason, which you've probably already guessed. Those walks are a good trend. An Affeldt who can throw more strikes is a mighty fine pitcher. He generally keeps the ball in the yard, too, which was the problem with Casilla this year.

I'm on board. Affeldt for closer. Bochy's still talking about match-ups and bullpen-by-committee, but you can understand how easy it is to get comfortable with a closer. That's because you can feel it too, the comfortability. With a couple more of these outings, Affeldt will be the guy. And seeing as he's not Jonathan Broxton or Brett Myers for a prospect, that's fine by me.