The New New New New Barry Zito

Posted By on February 7, 2009 10:26 am

If you have followed Barry Zito’s career, you have no doubt heard many times that he has discovered what has gone wrong, and he expects better from now on. On one hand, that is certainly encouraging. On the other hand, he’s said it a lot over the past two years but still been unable to convert those epiphanies into a reasonable earned-run average.

Since this is the time of year when everyone is allowed to be blindly optimistic, I will present to you with no reservations the latest Zito news. During my chat with him on Friday, Zito said a few things will be new for him this year.

You know about his new fitness regimen. He spent the winter with workout freak Brian Wilson. Zito said he’s lost about five pounds, gained some muscle, and he’s not sore not when he throws.

“ So much of what we’ve done in this workout is body weight stuff, a lot of pushups, pullups, a lot of balance and stabilization, basically involving the small muscles,” Zito said. “It used to be when you work out, you work the big muscle groups, and then you throw and you are working your rotator cuff and its like ‘Holy (crap), have I not been working out all year?’ What you don’t realize is you haven’t been working the small muscles. A lot of the stabilizing is working small muscles. When you throw it’s those muscles.”

I asked Zito if he’s noticed a difference when throwing off the mound, in either his velocity or movement.

“It’s about having late life on the ball,” he said. “The velocity is great. Last year at my worst points I had no life on the ball. Toward the end of the season it was back to 87-88-89,  a couple 90′s. It’s in there. It’s just about being loose and letting it go again.”

So that’s the physical stuff. But with Zito, there is always more. He insists he has a new attitude this year. I asked him if he would enjoy less spotlight now that Tim Lincecum has won a Cy Young and future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson is here, and he said he’d previously figured this would be a different year.

“The first year I wanted to come out and wow everyone,” he said. “Then last year I really wanted to make sure,’Don’t worry guys, it’s all good.’ Now I’m past all that and back to having fun and pitching because I love pitching. I’m done trying to please everyone and do all that. Everyone ends up getting their expectations met when I focus on what I love to do, which is pitching.”

Zito also said that he’s going to try to do more extra-curricular activities during the season, because he figures it will help him get away from thinking about pitching 24/7.

“I’m a lot different than a lot of people — when baseball is my singular focus, it suffers,” he said. “When I have a lot of stuff going on it makes baseball better. I’ve been focusing on music, picked up the drums. I was taking driving lessons with my car (something like this).  It’s one thing to have a fast car and another thing to take it seriously and say ‘Yeah, I can (bleeping) drive this thing…

“When you have your only fun at the field, the rest of your life becomes a little blurry. We’re not just baseball guys who turn into silhouettes off the field.”

So there ya go… Barry Zito new and improved. Again.

Personally, I hope he does get it turned around because he’s a nice guy. People rip him all the time on the internet and the radio because he makes a lot of money. But it’s not his fault he makes all that money. He earned it. Obviously he hasn’t pitched up to expectations, but it’s not because he’s not trying. He’s also never hid from the responsibility of that contract. He knows more is expected of him as well as anyone. He’s never hid from the media, either, so that’s always a big plus in my book.

Comments

6 Responses to “The New New New New Barry Zito”

  1. Frontrow says:

    and what’s the excuse when there is another 2-7 start?

  2. Ben says:

    Thanks for the kind words about big Z. I’m an A’s fan who saw his decline well in advance, but I’ve always respected his character. I truly think he’s one of the nicest guys in sports. His Strikeouts for Troops program is very admirable. It sounds like he’s gotten out of his own head, which is probably all that he’s ever needed.

  3. Nat Busichio says:

    The fact that he makes a lot of money isn’t the reason people criticize him so much, it’s because he’s arguably one of the worst starters in the league. His horrific numbers are compounded when you take into consideration that half his starts are in one of the better pitching parks in the league.

  4. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Nat, you are fooling yourself if you think that Barry Zito would take the same amount of criticism if he were making $1 million a year. I don’t dispute that his performances have been poor — regardless of the salary — but I think the salary causes people to expect even more of him, and that just magnifies the failures.

    By the way, I just looked it up and Zito’s ERA over two seasons with the Giants is 4.83, for an ERA+ of 91. (An ERA+ of 100 would be exactly average for his league.) So I think calling him horrific might be a bit much.

    I’ll add that the benefit of pitching at AT&T Park is nullified by the Giants poor defense. Since Zito isn’t a strikeout pitcher, he gets hurt more than guys like Cain and Lincecum by all those balls the Giants don’t catch. The Giants ranked 23rd in the majors last year in defensive efficiency (getting outs on balls in play).

  5. DrBeeper says:

    It’s actually strikes me as reasonably simple:

    Bad infield defense = BZ tries to strike everyone out = too many pitches (100+ pitches in 5 innings), too many walks, and too many fly balls (more HR’s allowed)

    In his best years he was a ground-ball pitcher with above-average infield D. The Giants D is truly awful – and not being addressed in any way.

  6. [...] reminded me of an interview I did with Zito before spring training, when he described his new attitude. This new attitude, as you know, is not new. He’s had a lot of epiphanies and new attitudes [...]

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