Don't get too concerned over Zito's recent 'slump'
Posted: Tuesday August 12, 2003 4:31 PM
Barry Zito is just 8-10 but is fifth in the AL with a 3.14 ERA. AP
By Jason Grey, Special to SI.com
Questions flood our inbox these days about Barry Zito. Some are asking what is up with his slump? Some look at his numbers and say what slump? Well, both questions are sort of valid, so letís examine it a little closer.
Zito currently rates fifth in the American League in ERA, so it doesnít appear there is any slump to worry about. Looking a little closer, this month heís given up 11 runs in 11 innings, but only three of them were earned, so that helped his ERA. Still his ERA since the break is 2.53, and opponents are batting .207 off of him.
Slump? Then again, you have the Aís managerial staff saying itís not an injury or anything else wrong causing his ďslump.Ē Sure he has only eight wins, but so does Pedro Martinez. Heís caught some bad luck with his run support, and the wins havenít been there like they have been for Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
Letís try to put it into perspective. There are some intriguing numbers that could be somewhat troubling. Zito just hasnít been as dominant as he was last year. His K/BB ratio has dropped from 2.33 to 1.56 this year. His K/9 has declined steadily the last three years from 8.61 to 7.14 to 5.30. Additionally, his homer rate this year has been slightly elevated, though not so much that it needs to be considered an issue.
Perhaps it is because he just hasnít looked dominant on the mound (less strikeouts, etc.) when we take the stats out and just look at him pitching that is causing the perception. Or maybe itís the fact he couldnít beat the Tigers.
Regardless, at this point, I just acquired Zito for a stretch run, and wasnít really worried about doing so. Yes, the K rate isnít as high, but heís still getting his outs in other ways. Opponents hit .218 off Zito last year, this year, just .226. Last year, they slugged .340 off of him, this year .343. As we pointed out above, his post-break numbers are even better. Pitchers always carry an inherent degree of risk, and perhaps that risk is elevated a bit from the norm with Zito because of his strikeout and walk rates, but it is still a risk worth taking.
Looks like I may have spoken a tad too soon. Despite the fact that he hasnít blown a save, it appears that Chris Mears may have lost a role closing games in Detroit to Danny Patterson. Itís odd that you go 5-for-5 in save situations, which carry more pressure, but are demoted for having a couple of rough outings in non-save situations. Heís not out of the picture yet, but Alan Trammell looks to turn to Patterson for the ninth right now.
I canít figure out what the Royals are thinking. Jeremy Affeldtís blister issues (which werenít solved by changing grips or using the cream that helped Josh Beckettís blister issues) prevent him from going beyond five innings. But on two occasions this week, when Darrell May had to go on three days rest, and when Paul Abbott was called up, he literally begged for the ball and guaranteed five, but was turned down. Instead the Royals thrust Abbott into the rotation against the Yankees and kept Affledt in the bullpen. On top of that, they send down Kris Wilson, just as he was starting to get into a groove (3.29 ERA in July, 2.00 ERA in August.) Iím not sure about those moves.
However, there could be some Affeldt upside. Mike MacDougal is struggling once again. Heís blown seven saves, his ERA is at 4.68, heís allowing a ton of baserunners (1.58 WHIP), and more tellingly, opponents have hit .415 against him since the break, helping him to post a 15-plus ERA in that time frame. Affeldt to close, anyone?
Jacque Jones has problems with his strained groin again, the same trouble that caused an earlier stint on the disabled list. Counting on Jones for consistent production down the stretch isnít a smart bet. It looks like an offseason of rest is the only thing that will get him 100 percent again.
The Blue Jays plan on switching Chris Woodward back to starting shortstop as soon as Mike Bordickís bat cools off. The Jays know that getting ready for next year means Woodward at short, but they will show Bordick the courtesy of waiting till he slows down a bit before they make the move.
Unlike the Jays, the Orioles and Mike Hargrove seem intent on winning games this year still. Why else are they considering playing B.J. Surhoff and David Segui again, when players like Jack Cust need full-time shots? As long as Cust stays at DH, he should be fine. Expect a passable average, lots of strikeouts, a good amount of walks, but also homers and RBI. By the way, expect the Giants to wind up with either Pat Hentgen or Rick Helling shortly from the Oís (they have both cleared waivers). Deep AL leagues that donít allow NL stats may lose one of these guys from the pool.
Aaron Boone is 4-for-37 since the trade to the Yankees. Normally, I always try to expect a 20 percent drop when players move into the other league for the first time. Boone doesnít know any of the pitchers and may continue to experience some adjustment issues.
Kyle Lohse appears to be emerging from his deep funk that was caused by issues with his mechanics. Of course, great outings against Detroit and Cleveland donít count for a heck of a lot, but it is encouraging.
The Mariners expect to solve their third base problem by moving Carlos Guillen there when he is healthy, and keeping Rey Sanchez at shortstop. Sanchez, though hot right now, can provide at best an empty batting average that shouldnít hurt you.
Jason Grey is the publisher of The Masters of Fantasy Baseball at www.mastersball.com, a free daily source for news, analysis, insight, and opinion.