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April 29, 2005

Posted: Friday April 29, 2005 1:43PM; Updated: Friday April 29, 2005 1:43PM
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Because the world needs another sports blog ...

From Hero to Zito

Oakland GM Billy Beane took his share of criticism after breaking up the Big Three in the offseason by trading Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. But the same critics who said Beane went to far with his unorthodox methods have to be wondering if the opposite is true: Beane didn't go far enough. Considering the bounty of talent he got for Hudson and Mulder, Beane should have traded Barry Zito too. Even before Zito's abysmal start this season (0-4, 6.60 ERA), statheads have been screaming to the high heavens the past couple of seasons about the affable left-hander's decline. For example, check out Zito's strikeouts per nine innings the past four seasons:
2001: 8.61
2002: 7.14
2003: 5.67
2004: 6.89

So far this season -- and before you sample-size policemen go nuts, I do know it's early -- Zito's ratio is 5.70. He's struck out 19 and walked 11 in 30 innings. His problem appears the same as it was last season: an inability to consistently throw his curveball for strikes. The A's chances of contending -- and Beane's ability to get something of value in a trade for Zito -- depend largely on Zito turning his season around.
-- Jacob Luft (1:45 p.m.)

Rebuilding a team can be lengthy process, but Billy Beane and the Oakland management have proven the ability to gauge young talent very well. Trading Zito would likely not get them to the playoffs this year but would pay out in two years when their other prospects would be in full swing. But given the current state of affairs in Oakland, you need to have a few fan favorites to bring in fans. They are playing for now.
-- Ryan, Abilene, Texas (2:41 p.m.)

I think the problem with Zito is less that he isn't able to throw his curve for strikes than a case of umpires not calling the curve for strikes. I have seen him pitch every game over the past five years and umpires are just not calling the curve a strike any more. They see it rising and make up their minds that it is a ball before it even crosses the plate -- often in the strike zone.
-- Tim, San Jose, Calif. (2:41 p.m.)

Considering Zito has two years left on his contract, wouldn't trading him at the deadline (when teams always want a starter) still bring in a huge amount of talent? Victor Zambrano brought in Scott Kazmir didn't he?
-- Sean, Boston (3:26 p.m.)

If you are going to use Zambrano-for-Kazmir as a comparison, then what would be fair value for Zito? Seattle phenom Felix Hernandez? That trade was so bad it ushered in a new regime (Omar Minaya) for the Mets.
-- JL (4:55 p.m.)

Billy Beane was probably set on dealing two of the three -- the two that brought back the best return. Zito's star has been fading for some time; yet his Cy Young gives him perceived value. It would not be surprising to find out that other teams were not offering what Beane sought. Only the Orioles were mentioned and they were not even offering Erik Bedard. On the other hand, Zito was both the healthiest of the three and the best playoff performer. He still has another year on his contract should he regain form or value. He'll be traded soon enough; the question is what the A's can get for him at that point.
-- Adam, Chicago (4:31 p.m.)

Pitching coach Rick Peterson going to the Mets is a huge loss for the A's. It's clearly being reflected with the demise of Zito.
-- James, Freeport (4:31 p.m.)

Zito's stuff can be filthy, but it's not powerful enough, so he's bound to go through cold streaks and seasons. He'll eventually put it together again, much like a Kenny Rogers or a Carl Pavano. I think the A's kept him for two reasons: 1) He was bringing the prince's ransom instead of the king's; and, 2) Zito gives the pitching staff some stability. Gutting the entire Big Three would have left Joe Blanton as the ace. At least Zito deflects pressure from the youngsters.
-- Ebenezer Samuel, Syracuse, N.Y. (5:11 p.m.)

Don't you think Beane's biggest mistake was deciding to invest in Eric Chavez instead of Miguel Tejada? Every year we hear Chavez is about to have his "breakout year" but never does. He's a good hitter but will never be a superstar.
-- Bill, Surprise, Ariz. (5:35 p.m.)

How can you have a problem with locking up Chavez to a reasonable six-year, $66 million deal? Chavez has won the past four Gold Gloves at third base while posting OPS-pluses of 131, 122, 132 and 132. At 27, he is still well within his prime.
-- JL (5:42 p.m.)

(April 28) Is Griffey done? | (April 27) O's make noise