Good news for Barry Zito: If the San Francisco Giants are in position to stage another party for winning a postseason series next month, Zito will be able to spray champagne as a contributor instead of as a somewhat awkward bystander.
That, of course, would be in direct opposition to the role that the left-hander played during the team's run to the 2010 World Series title. Left off the roster for all three postseason series, Zito played the part of someone who was rewarded handsomely to sit in a nice seat for the franchise's first title on the West Coast. Two years later, he'll be on the team's NLDS roster as Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced on Sunday that he'll be taking all five of his starters into the first round of the postseason.
As someone who felt bad for Zito when I saw him hanging on the outside of a fun run to the 2010 title, it's nice that he's getting this opportunity. No matter how you feel about his $126 million contract, it can't be a good feeling to sit on the sidelines when your paycheck says you should be out there pitching on the field.
At the same time, it should be noted that Ryan Vogelsong's second half stumble — he's 6-5 with a 5.56 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break — has a lot to do with Bochy's decision to carry five starters. Zito has been good since the calendar flipped to September, going 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA, but has been up and down the rest of the season. The fourth and final starter spot will likely come down to a decision between Zito and Vogelsong, a proposition that might not inspire much confidence among the Giants fan base if Zito is the choice.
Count Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles among that cautious crew:
The newfound confidence in Zito reminds me about the parable of the scorpion and the turtle ... A scorpion asks a turtle to carry him across a river. The turtle says, "No way! You'll sting me!" The scorpion points out that if he stings the turtle, they'll both drown. The turtle agrees, and as he's crossing the river, the scorpion stings him. "Why would you do that?", says the turtle with his last breath. And the scorpion says, "Because I'm a scorpion, you idiot."
Barry Zito is the scorpion. Maybe I should have updated the parable to have the scorpion walk two hitters and give up a double. But you get the idea.
Indeed we do. Maybe Zito does well in a postseason start, but it's more than likely that he doesn't. While starting off a postseason series with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and a rebounding Tim Lincecum is a problem most playoff teams would like to have, the fourth position does pose a big question mark. Especially since the Giants' bullpen hasn't been as stout as the 2010 edition.
Nevertheless, if the Giants are to win their second World Series title in three years, they'll again have to rely on a formula of strong starting efforts mixed with some unexpected contributions on offense. For better or worse, it looks like Zito might get a chance to help pull on the first part of that rope.