In his last start, Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants issued 7 walks over 3.2 innings. He somehow allowed only 2 runs (1 earned) and took the no-decision. That outing serves as an ugly reminder of how bad this pitcher is capable of being on the mound. Of course, he shined in all four of his previous starts this regular season. Hopefully, his last performance was simply an oddity rather than the new but recognizable norm.
We should quickly see the answer on May 7 when Zito starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of a three-game series. For obvious reasons, this series is crucial for the Giants, who stand 4 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West. I would say, however, that this particular contest is far more important for the 2002 Cy Young winner. He is typically the kind of pitcher that starts doing poorly and then drops off a cliff soon after. Undoubtedly, the team cannot handle that result right now.
During his career, Zito is 6-8 with a 3.97 earned run average over 127 innings pitched against the Dodgers. Those results are decent enough, but other factors stand in his favor, too. A lot of the lineup for Los Angeles features some weak results against him over the last few years. For instance, Andre Ethier and James Loney sport .161 (31 at-bats) and .071 (28 at-bats) batting averages against him, respectively. On the other hand, Matt Kemp dominates him with a .455 average over 44 at-bats. The numbers against the rest of the lineup are definitely in Zito's favor based on history, though.
With a win or decent performance, Zito will show that his previous start was a little hiccup rather than an indication of things to come. The Giants cannot afford to see him revert to his usual self, especially with Tim Lincecum still struggling a bit on the mound. San Francisco's starting rotation looks strong enough as a whole, but this situation is fairly volatile nonetheless. Obviously, replacement options for any of the current starters are pretty lackluster. Injuries or major ineffectiveness would harm the rotation greatly.
I would like to think that Barry Zito will continue having a nice season with the San Francisco Giants. Without a doubt, he is a decent option to eat innings during a given season. However, his biggest use for the team right now is performing as an effective fifth starter. I doubt he is going to keep giving up a ton of walks, so I hope his next start is a quality one and nothing less. He will need to continue putting up quality numbers along with the other starters for the results to show in the standings.
Errick D. Williams is a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants who has attended over 200 games at AT&T Park. He lives in San Diego but regularly travels back up to the Bay Area to catch a game with friends and family members.