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Entries in San Francisco Giants (49)


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.


Baseball's Best, Worst Strike Zone Fishermen

Mark Simon at ESPN's SweetSpot Blog popped the hood on Ichiro's down 2011 season, pointing out that the longtime hitting Jedi didn't get as many hits as usual on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. Ichiro has been one of the game's better batters on out-of-zone pitches, posting a .262 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) when he has gone fishing over the past three years (the league average wOBA when swinging at pitches off the plate is .191).

Ichiro didn't crack the top 10, however. Who did? Here's a look at baseball's best strike zone fishermen:

Highest wOBA when swinging at out-of-zone pitches, 2009-11

Pablo Sandoval .319
Troy Tulowitzki .299
Michael Young .294
Ryan Zimmerman .287
Victor Martinez .287
Albert Pujols .286
Marco Scutaro .285
Jose Bautista .281
Miguel Cabrera .280
Dustin Pedroia .273


San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval has a full twenty point lead on Troy Tulowitzki for the top spot, and he doesn't get a Rocky Mountain boost like Tulo. Panda has popped a major league-best 24 home runs on outside pitches since '09, besting Miguel Cabrera by four. Check out Sandoval's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location on outside pitches, compared to the league average. He's primarily a high-pitch hacker:

Sandoval's in-play slugging percentage on out-of-zone pitches, 2009-11Average in-play slugging percentage on out-of-zone pitches, 2009-11So, who are the game's worst strike zone fisherman? Here are the batters with the lowest wOBA from 2009-11 when chasing pitches off the plate:

Juan Uribe .136
Brandon Inge .140
Alex Gonzalez .140
Andrew McCutchen .143
Miguel Olivo .145
Franklin Gutierrez .145
Jason Bay .146
Nick Swisher .147
Lyle Overbay .147
Kosuke Fukudome .150


Uribe, Inge and Gonzalez have been among the worst overall hitters in the majors, but you might be surprised to find Andrew McCutchen and Nick Swisher on this list. Happily, neither 'Cutch nor Swish goes fishing often: both are in the bottom ten in the majors in chase percentage over the past three seasons.


Pat the Bat Calls it a Career

It's a sad day for Burrell's Girls: Pat Burrell has retired due to a lingering right foot injury, according to MLBTradeRumors' Tim Dierkes. The Bat, now 35, hangs 'em up with 292 career home runs and a 116 OPS+. That adjusted OPS ranks 24th among active hitters with at least 5,000 plate appearances, sandwiched between Matt Stairs and Carlos Lee. Burrell's best years came in Philly, where the number one pick in the '98 draft popped 251 of those homers and posted a 119 OPS+.

It looked like Burrell was headed for forced retirement following the 2009 season after he tanked as the Tampa Bay Rays' DH (81 OPS+ in 476 plate appearances). Tampa cut him after a dreadful start to 2010 (74 OPS+ in 96 PA), but Burrell rediscovered his bat and won a World Series ring by the Bay, putting up a 127 OPS+ in 560 PA with the Giants over the 2010-2011 seasons.

With the Rays, Burrell struggled with a neck injury and didn't put solid swings even on pitches thrown down the middle..

Burrell's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location with Tampa Bay, 2009-2010

But he found his power stroke in San Francisco:

Burrell's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location with San Francisco, 2010-2011

As a guy considered the best amateur player in the country when he came out of Miami, Burrell's 18.7 career Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement might seem like a disappointment. After all, number one picks are supposed to become superstars. But Burrell's career value actually matches up pretty well with that of other number one selections. Baseball-Reference's draft page shows that #1 picks reaching the majors have averaged 19.5 WAR (though the total will increase as guys like Stephen Strasburg, David Price and Justin Upton turn in star-level seasons).

It's a shame The Bat was forced to put his down before he wanted to, but he can be proud of his hitting exploits in Philly. Now, he can enjoy his nearly $71 million in career earnings in, erm, any way he so chooses.

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