Oakland Athletics Won’t Start Barry Zito

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It sure would be a lot of fun to see Barry Zito pitching for the Oakland Athletics again but, face it, it’s just not going to happen.

The Athletics blogosphere has been bursting at the seams with Barry Zito nostalgia and propaganda and beat writer Susan Slusser has to field the question every single day but her answer, despite a pretty successful spring training, has never changed. Barry Zito is not going to be a starter for the A’s.

We can all rattle off the stats of yesteryear until we’re blue in the face but, like I said in this article when the acquisition was announced, the Barry Zito signing was little more than a calculated gamble at worst and a gesture of good will at best. If another team were to offer Zito a major league contract, Billy Beane would probably let it go through without a trade. It’s just not going to happen here for Barry Zito.

Barry Zito has collected a handful of scoreless innings but these are spring training games where he’s rarely facing a batter more than once and never more than twice. Even at his peak, Zito had a noticeable drop as he cycled through the lineup and at his lowest, he was almost unwatchable after the first three or four innings. To assume that any of that has changed after three four inning outings is foolish and a bigger gamble than signing him in the first place.

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I think the biggest pro-Zito A’s fans are nostalgic for something they understand. We are now following a team with a lot of question marks in the lineup and in the field and we’re grasping at whatever familiar face we can find in the crowd. Unfortunately, the most familiar face, one we remember winning with, is a 36 year old pitcher with a full year out of the bigs, eight years removed from a sub 4 ERA, and 13 years removed from his Cy Young Award.

I have nothing against Barry Zito and wish him all the best in his comeback to the majors but with the considerable depth the A’s currently have with starting pitchers I find it very unlikely that Zito is going to be placed in the rotation on the basis of 12 spring innings and nostalgia. If this team is going to compete, gambling on the mound is the wrong way to go. Leave the nostalgia to the marketing department and the staffing to Beane and the A’s will do just fine without Barry Zito on the mound.

I was in Arizona last weekend and was able to see Zito’s most recent outing and despite his four scoreless innings, he seemed to struggle with placement and walked three batters. That would make his BB average 6.75 for the day. Still want him to start for you on opening week? Sure, this may be a fluke day but it may also be a fluke that on his first outing of the spring he hit a batter, gave up a home run and had two score on him in just two innings. Or, if we’re looking at other spring training flukes, let’s consider it a fluke that on his second outing opponents hit .263 off of him in just 2.2 innings. In 2002, his Cy Young year, opponents hit .218 off of him and his walk average per 9 sat around 3.

Of course, nobody expects him to perform at Cy Young levels ever again but, to illustrate my point, this is not the Barry Zito that once pitched for Oakland so enjoy seeing him in the white cleats while you can and focus on the pitching staff that will actually make the roster in April because short of all our eligible players getting the flu on opening day, you won’t see Barry in the lineup in a meaningful game ever again.

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