On Wednesday, however, Zito strung together his second shutout of the season with four strikeouts and seven hits in seven innings. He now improves to 2-0 on the season after giving up just three hits in seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in his first start of the season.
While some may be quick to write-off Zito, fantasy players should take a closer look at his solid 2012 season and spectacular playoffs to realize that he really can keep this up. After Zito signed a record contract with the Giants before the 2007 season, he immediately struggled, going 11-13 with a 4.53 ERA and then career-low 131 strikeouts. The next year it got even worse as he became a fantasy non-factor until 2009 when he had a slight bounce-back with a mediocre season. After a terrible 2011 fantasy owners all but gave up on the former ace until last year when he finished with 15 wins (his highest ever with the Giants) and a 4.14 ERA. It was the playoffs, however, when he put it all together with victories in the NLCS and World Series.
One of the main differences has been the development of his cutter. Before 2012, Zito had never featured his cutter and threw it over five percent of the time in just one season. In 2012, the cut fastball became his go-to pitch. He threw it 22.5-percent of the time, more than any other pitch. This season that trend has continued; and it’s been so far, so good for Zito.
He is still not the same strikeout pitcher he once was and probably will never be again, and he obviously isn’t an ace anymore. What he is, however, is a very serviceable starter at the back end of the Giants rotation who is more than capable of providing your fantasy baseball team with wins and quality starts without torturing your ERA. He has been added in over 36 percent of ESPN leagues since the start of the season, but is still available in about 60 percent of leagues. If you’re looking for pitching help, don’t hesitate to add him in all formats.