Hidden Moment of Leverage: Barry Zito Loses Control

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Late last night in Denver (note: anything after 11PM is considered late for me), Ryan "Steven" Spilborghs gave the Giants the red ass with his walkoff grand slam in the fourteenth inning. After GIDP'ing in the 10th with a runner in scoring position and misplaying an eventual Edgar Renteria triple that sparked a three run rally in the top half of the 14th, Spilborghs made amends by smacking a Merkin Valdez fastball deep into the Colorado night, putting the Rockies up four games in the Wild Card race over San Fran.

But despite the wacky undertakings of the fourteenth inning, we can put on our hindsight glasses and isolate a high leverage moment earlier in the game (read: when I was still awake). With his team up 1-0 in the fifth inning, Giants starter Barry Zito opened up the bottom of the inning by walking the leadoff hitter Ian Stewart, already Zito's third walk of the game. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba reached on a Juan Uribe error; Zito then recorded two outs on a Jason Marquis sac bunt and a Dexter Fowler grounder that got Stewart out at home.

Instead of ending the threat, Zito walked Clint Barmes on eight pitches despite putting him in the hole with an 0-2.count. With the bases loaded, Todd Helton watched three fastballs fly way over the strike zone and one slider dip away and the Rockies tied the game at one on the bases-loaded walk. The fifth inning saw Zito throw 27 pitches and just 14 of them for strikes. Look, I even generated one of them fanciful graphs that Drew uses all the time:


Look at all that green! Stop dancing around the zone, Barry! Walks'll kill ya!

Granted, this situation called for caution. Throwing meatballs at Todd Helton (5-for-16 career against Zito) will only get you sauced, so it's possible Zito made a smart move by not leaving anything down the pipeline and giving up four runs instead of one. Still, Clint Barmes (2-for-15 career against Zito) was the man who should have ended the inning, especially once Barry got ahead 0-2. Zito pitched one more inning and finished with the lopsided line score of 6 innings, 3 hits, 0 earned runs, 4 strikeouts and a whopping six walks.

Zito's walks rate has dropped from a ghastly 5.1 per nine innings last season to a more human 3.6 per nine innings this season. Still, if he had culled this rate by just one walk last night, Spilborghs would never have had a chance to play hero.

(advanced graphics courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

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Zito didn't have a great outing, but the Rockies only scored 1 run off of 6 walks. Until the 14th.
I have three little words for Justin Miller and Merkin Valdez: DFA.

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