Welcome back to rock bottom, Barry Zito.
Remember the guy who carried that personal win streak with the San Francisco Giants heading into 2013, and who looked like he might have a chance to actually make a small amount of good on his gargantuan contract in his final year prior to free agency? Well, since starting the season with two more wins and allowing no runs through 14 innings, it’s been a precipitous trip down the slippery slope for the lefty.
There are probably a good number of words that could be used to describe Zito’s decline, but numbers just do it so much more concisely:
April: 3.29/1.35 ERA/WHIP, .269 BAA, 27.1 IP, 3-1
May: 4.33/1.64 ERA/WHIP, .309 BAA, 35.1 IP, 1-2
June: 5.97/1.78 ERA/WHIP, .333 BAA, 28.2 IP, 0-3
July: 7.65/2.05 ERA/WHIP, .349 BAA, 20.0 IP, 0-2
August: 12.46/2.19 ERA/WHIP, .375 BAA, 8.2 IP, 0-1 (one start, five total appearances)
It’s just so … clean, no?
No matter how you look at it, this is an aging veteran whose effectively has progressively abandoned him as the season has gone on, and regardless of what the team has done (including moving him out of the rotation), it just hasn’t helped — not when his career-low (PITCHf/x era) 82.6 mph average on his fastball only adds to the reason why he’s likely to be a below replacement level player for the second time in three years.
The numbers say more than that, though.
Sure, the Giants are chomping at the bits to finally move on from this era of the franchise, though it’s hard to imagine that any other team in the majors could find any room for Zito on their roster either — even on a minor league deal as depth.
Like his career trajectory once arriving in San Francisco, he’ll experience be quite the drop from a $20 million salary in 2013 to just a fraction of that next season (though he will receive a $7 million buyout) … if he can find a place to stick in his age-36 season, anyway.
Which, of course, is to say that Zito is likely just done.
Though it’s not uncommon for teams to sign veterans of his ilk as minor league depth during Spring Training, there simply isn’t much to motive him to come back, is there?
After all, if he were to retire today, he’d end his career having accumulated 31.1 fWAR, which isn’t exactly too shabby. Between the Cy Young award, three All-Star appearances, and being a two-time World Series champion, Zito will have accomplished more than most pitchers in the league could hope for …
… and unfortunately, none of that will matter because he’s been one of the highest-paid pitchers of all time.
Regardless of accolades, Zito’s name and legacy will always be tied to the ill-fated contract (not that you could blame him for signing, obviously), and his current struggles to limp through what is likely going to be his final season in the bigs will be what people remember most — a failed big-money player whose skills declined as his pay increased, not the champion who’d just celebrated with his team just one season prior as an unlikely hero.
Bittersweet as it is, that’s the best that he’ll be able to salvage at this point of his career. And if he doesn’t retire?
Well, let’s just say things could deteriorate rather quickly.