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Zito Thoughts, Part 1 of 3
2006-12-29 07:29
by Ken Arneson

I'm not a Giants hater like a lot of A's fans. I'll never leave my heart in AT&T Park, but if the Giants have an interesting team, I'll watch and root for them. If not, I'll ignore them.

The past several years, I've been doing a lot of ignoring. Watching a bunch of has-been and never-was old farts play .500 ball doesn't turn me on. Nor does watching Barry Bonds take four pitches out of the strike zone over and over again.

In recent years, the Giants have had only two players I've enjoyed watching--Jason Schmidt and Omar Vizquel. Oh man, I could sit and watch Omar Vizquel play shortstop for hours on end. If we judged players solely by their artistry instead of their statisticry, Omar Vizquel would be the first guy voted in the Hall of Fame. He is lovely to watch.

So I'm actually pretty happy that Barry Zito signed with San Francisco. I love watching Zito pitch, and I'm happy that Giants games have immediately become a little more watchable every five days. Of course, Zito is replacing Schmidt, another player I like, so it's only a minor improvement on the watchability scale. Ah, if only the Giants had extended Schmidt instead of signing Matt Morris...

* * *

Of course, the pundits all agree that the contract is too big, for too many years. But is it? Is there actually a plan here? There are a few points in the Giants defense:

  • How much is too much? We have absolutely no idea how much money the Giants have to spend.
  • If you're going to give any pitcher in the world a seven-year contract in hopes he stays healthy all seven years, Barry "Never Missed A Start" Zito is probably the guy you'd want to give it to.
  • This gives the Giants a solid young pitching staff for years to come
  • .

This actually makes the Giants 2008 starting rotation look quite a bit like 2006 Oakland's. You've got:

  • Zito
  • The star young flamethrower (Cain/Harden)
  • Another hard thrower (Lincecum/Haren)
  • A crafty young inning eater (Lowry/Blanton)
  • A crafty old inning eater (Morris/Loaiza)

Given that the Giants need to totally rebuild their team over the next few years, and have pretty much an empty farm system, what better way than to start by setting up a young, solid starting rotation? You can build a bullpen out of scrap, and probably find decent hitters under rocks, but good, young starting pitchers are really hard to find.

Now if Brian Sabean can take these old farts currently in his everyday lineup, and trade them in July for younger parts--lather, rinse, repeat--I'll really be impressed.

* * *

I know the counterarguments. Zito is not an ace. He's good, not great, and therefore shouldn't get ace money. The money is better spent on better players than Zito.

I agree with that conclusion about Zito: he's not an ace. He's good, not great. However, I disagree with nearly every argument I've heard, including many from writers I respect, supporting that conclusion. I'll get to that in my next (non-photo-outtake) blog entry. Part 2 here.

2006-12-29 09:51:00
1.   deadteddy8
Whoa whoa whoa...

Giants fan here to point out that Lincecum/Haren isn't at all a fair comparison. Tim the Enchanter shouldn't even start the season in The Bigs, while Haren is easily one of the top ten pitchers in his league and, after Santana and with Liriano on the mend, could compete with Holliday, Lackey, and Bonderman for second-best.

If Zito=Zito, then to match the A's of last year, Cain will have to =Haren, which I don't think will happen, despite Cain's awesomeness. Harden+assorted other starters might get matched by the Giants' 5th starters, but who knows with that bunch?

2006-12-29 10:04:48
2.   Ken Arneson
1 Note I said 2008 rotation, not 2007.
2006-12-29 10:53:38
3.   jakewoods
You can say the Giants have some great pitching under the age of 30.
2006-12-29 11:26:44
4.   Robert Daeley
The best argument against it is the ~40% of the payroll the two Barrys likely take up next year.
2006-12-29 13:56:39
5.   deadteddy8
2 My bad.
2007-01-01 18:59:38
6.   MrIncognito
Given the premise that everything will turn out well, you can argue that half the teams in in baseball are going to have a great young nucleus in three years. Things have a way of not working out like that.

If there's anything the last decade of A's fandom should have taught us, it's that injuries and depth are hugely important. The Giants are likely to have a lot of the former and none of the latter: not a recipie for success.

Zito at $18 million per year makes sense only if you see him as an overpriced but useful last piece on your playoff team. The Giants are no where near that territory, and the contract makes no sense for the team.

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