All hail Barry Zito, winner of games, hitter of balls, hero of men

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

No, you haven't stumble upon a post from 2002 — it's 2013 and we're talking about Barry Zito, who is, statistically speaking, at this very early juncture, one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Did anybody ever think they'd be reading that sentence again? Zito's pitching in recent years had come second to him being a punchline for players paid far too much. We don't want to say "Zito's back" — because he's 35 and as his curveball breaks, so does he — but it's hard to dismiss what he's been doing lately.

Zito was great again on Wednesday, throwing seven shutout innings in the San Francisco Giants' 10-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies. He threw seven scoreless in a 1-0 win against the St. Louis Cardinals in his first start too.

He's carrying around a 0.00 ERA right now and this fun fact: The Giants have won the last 16 games he's started, dating back to last August. Zito himself has gotten the W in his last seven regular season starts, plus two of three postseason games. The other was a no-decision.

Zito was also 2-for-3 at the plate Wednesday with an RBI, to go along with a hit against the Cards. He's hitting .750. A few years ago, if you saw 7-something associated with him, you'd figure it was his ERA.

Back then, the Giants were trying to figure out what to do with Zito — the former AL Cy Young winner they signed to a seven-year, $126 million contract before the 2007 season. He had that 10-17 campaign in 2008 with the 5.15 ERA, then 10-13 (2009), then 9-14 (2010). Bullpen? Minor leagues? Team crooner?

Now he looks Clayton Kershaw-esque. They're both 2-0, both with 0.00 ERAs. OK, fine, that just to enrage the Dodger fans. Zito's strikeout numbers aren't touching Kershaw's. Zito actually, mirrors Paul Maholm of the Atlanta Braves (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.87 WHIP).

This is by no means to suggest that Zito is going to have a Cy Young season. But we seemed to have turned the corner in the "Barry Zito sucks and is a waste of money" conversation.

In 2008, you would have laughed at anybody who told you "In five years Zito will be fine, it's Tim Lincecum the Giants will be worrying about."

Yet, here we are in 2013, and that's come to fruition.

Baseball is back. Don't miss anything.
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