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Entries in Barry Zito (6)


San Fran's Starters Avoid Fat Part of Plate During Shutout Streak

The San Francisco Giants have leaped into first place in the NL West thanks to four straight shutouts, becoming the first club to blank the competition four or more consecutive times since the 1995 Baltimore Orioles. Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum dominated the Dodgers for a series sweep, and Madison Bumgarner was an up-the-middle roller from Ryan Hanigan away from a no-hitter versus the Reds last night.

While Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum and Bumgarner all put up zeroes, their pitch location during their respective shutouts varied. One thing they all had in common, though, was avoiding the fat part of the plate.

Barry Zito

Zito's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/25/12

Zito stuck to his glove side versus the Dodgers, staying away from lefty batters (nearly 60 percent of his pitches to lefties were thrown outside) and pounding righties inside. Zito threw just five of his 109 pitches to both the horizontal and vertical middle of the plate.

Ryan Vogelsong

Vogelsong's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/26/12

While Zito pitched to his glove side, Vogelsong located to his arm side and induced a bunch of ground balls (15, compared to eight fly balls). Vogelsong also left just five of his 98 pitches over the horizontal and vertical middle of the plate. 

Tim Lincecum

Lincecum's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/27/12

Lincecum turned in arguably his best start of the season by keeping the ball down: 54 percent of his pitches were at hitters' knees, compared to 45 percent overall in 2012. Only nine of Timmy's 115 pitches were left middle-middle.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner's pitch location vs. Reds on 6/28/12

Good luck finding a pattern in Bumgarner's pitch location. Batters must have felt like they got walloped with a beer-and-shaving-cream pie as the big lefty peppered all four quadrants of the plate. Bumgarner threw a mere four of his 107 pitches to the middle-middle-portion of the plate.

Bad things happen when pitchers leave the ball down the heart of the plate: hitters are slugging a collective .579 on pitches thrown to both the horizontal and vertical middle of the dish this season. Basically, batters turn into this year's version of Robinson Cano when they get a cookie. But Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum and Bumgarner only threw a combined 5.4 percent of their pitches to the fat part of the plate during the shutout streak. The average for starting pitchers is about 7.5 percent. It pays to be precise.


Zito Looking For More Zip

Spring training is nigh, which means it's time for a gaggle of stories on players sporting new unis, trimming waistlines or tweaking their approaches. San Francisco's Barry Zito is one such tinkerer, as the lefty is looking to regain some oomph on his pitches after a disastrous, injury-marred 2011.

Zito served the first two DL stints of his 12-year career with a right foot sprain in 2011, getting clobbered for a 5.87 ERA in 53.2 innings pitched. Now, the AP reports he's hoping that going low will bring up his ultra-low radar gun readings last season:

During the offseason, he worked on bending his front leg to get lower to the ground and speed up the momentum the ball gains traveling to the plate.

Zito revealed his new crouching style during a spring training throwing session Sunday.

"It's pretty subtle from a feel standpoint. As far as when it manifests in momentum, that's when it's a little more noticeable," Zito said. "It was something I was doing a little bit last year that you guys were aware of, just getting a little bit more momentum down the mound. That was something that I worked on all offseason."

Zito has never been especially reliant upon his low-octane fastball, but the pitch lost zip and all semblance of effectiveness in 2011. With Zito hobbled, he surrendered velocity, control and bat-missing ability with his "heater":

YearVelocityPct. Thrown in Strike ZoneMiss Pct.
2009 86.5 47.6 15.7
2010 85.6 45.2 15.4
2011 84 40.5 10.4
Avg. for LH SP 90.1 52.5 14.6


He seemingly tried to nibble at the corners with his fastball in 2011, but he just ended up missing wide. Check out his fastball location in 2009-10, and then last season:

Zito's fastball location, 2009-10

Zito's fastball location, 2011

Toronto's Kyle Drabek was the only big league starter to throw a lower percentage of fastballs in the zone in 2011.

Zito managed an above-average miss rate with his fastball in years past by getting some empty swings on high pitches...

Opponent contact rate vs. Zito's fastball, 2009-10

In 2011, however, nearly the entire zone was a hot spot for opposing hitters:

Opponent contact rate vs. Zito's fastball, 2011

Opponents getting a fastball against Zito last year morphed into vintage Barry Bonds, batting .337/.444/.602 overall (they hit .264/.374/.445 against his fastball in 2009-10).  

Zito's name has become synonymous with free agent pitching blunders, as he has pulled down $80 million during his five years with the Giants while producing just 3.8 Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement. No matter what he does from this point forward, his tenure with the Giants will be remembered grimly. But if San Fran is going to recoup any value on the $46-$57 million they still owe Zito (depending on whether his 2014 option vests), they need his fastball to at least be functional.


Zito Throws a Curve

Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants made consecutive starts against the San Diego Padres.  In the first, he pitched brilliantly, walking none and striking out seven, allowing one run during seven innings of work.  In the second, Saturday night, Barry walked four and struck out three, giving up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Talking to the AP after the game, Zito blamed his curve ball:

"It was difficult for me to get the ball down tonight," Zito said. "For the most part, the curveball didn't have the finish down, and the change up, either."

Zito's curve baffled the Padres in the 7/7 game:

Barry Zito, curve ball, 7/7/2011. Location on the left, movement on the right.Zito threw the pitch for strikes, getting nice movement in and down on right-handed batters.  He threw 29 curves, representing 27% of his pitches that day. Of those,  65%  resulted in strikes, batters going 0 for 5 with two strikeouts when it was the deciding pitch.

The pitch missed on 7/16:

Barry Zito, curve ball, 7/16/2011. Location on the left, movement on the right.Barry could not get the pitch inside on right-handers.  He also left the pitch up.  You can see the difference in the movement, as much less lateral movement kept the pitch outside the strike zone, and a bit less vertical movement helped keep it high.  Zito threw his curve in this game 22.4% of the time, only 47% of them resulting in strikes.  The two San Diego batters put in play resulted in hits. although Barry did manage two strikeouts on the pitch.

Zito could not depend on the pitch, however, so he went to the fastball more.  Since Barry's fastball isn't that fast, and his control of that pitch wasn't that good, so Padres batters managed two hits and two walks off that pitch, chased Barry from the game early.

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