FIRE JOE MORGAN: Highway 80 Revisited (Barry Zito: Not That Good, Not That Bad, But Also, Seriously, Not That Good)


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Thursday, December 28, 2006


Highway 80 Revisited (Barry Zito: Not That Good, Not That Bad, But Also, Seriously, Not That Good)

Consider this a response / stream of consciousness/research / comment on Junior's post about Zito below.


Keith Law has now put his opinion on Barry Zito in writing, saying BZ "at best is a No. 3 starter on a contender." Just to add a little more useful data:

Zito's ERA+ the last 3 years:
105, 116, 116.

(And yes, as Junior said in correcting himself, we really shouldn't be using just ERA here. [Too convenient for a pitcher whose only experience has been for a team in a relatively weak division, in a pitcher's dream park.] Not that ERA+ is perfect, but it's (a) a fairer metric to use than just crude ERA and (b) designed to make it a little easier to measure against other players.)

Anyway. ERA+. One hundred is league average, and for starters, though I haven't looked too far into the numbers, I'd imagine the average is a little lower, as relievers generally have lower ERAs. Remember: for ERA+, higher = awesomer.

So...105, 116, 116...I'd guess, yeah, most "contenders" would take that out of their #2 starters.


All right, fine, my flight's delayed so I'm going to take this a step further.

Zito's 3-year ERA+ average is 112 1/3. Let's look at all teams who were "in contention" last year (by my own, kind of vague definition) and see where Zito would have ranked on those 2006 starting staffs, in ERA+.

Yes, that's right, I'm using his 3-year average against the single-year stats of 2006 pitching staffs. Seems right enough to me.

NYM: 3rd (Way better than team "ace" Pedro Martinez. Basically in a tie with Tom Glavine (113), and worse than John Maine on a kind of small sample size. I'd call it more of a 2 than a 3. But! This is science, motherfuckers. It's a 3.)
STL: 2nd
SDP: 4th (At least he was better than Jake Peavy.)
LAD: 4th (Maddux, Lowe, sure. Billinglsey is iffy again at 90.0 IP.)
PHI: 3rd
HOU: 3rd (Goddam, Clemens was good.)
NYY: 3rd
TOR: 3rd
BOS: 2nd
MIN: 3rd
DET: 4th
CHI: 1st
OAK: 1st (Well, he was 1st. Thanks, maybe, to an injured Rich Harden.)
LAA: 4th

Of these contenders, Zito would have been an average number 2.85 starter, thus obscuring all possible meaning the phrase "number n starter" might have.

Drop CHI and BOS from the calculus -- teams who both finished 3rd in their divisions -- and Zito becomes a number 3.08 starter. You know, the guy you usually pitch 3rd in the rotation, and then, once every 12 cycles through the rotation, you pitch him 4th.

I gotta gay say after going through these numbers, Keith Law doesn't look nearly as wrong as I thought he would. I mean, he's wrong that Zito's "at best" a number 3 starter. Zito basically should be a number 3 starter on a contending team. But I don't think he's far off. And as Law writes in his blolumn: Zito's only getting older. His fastball is, by most reports, slippin'.

In fact, Law may have more accurately said that Zito will at best be a number 3 starter; you have to wonder how BZ 2010-13 is going to perform. (2013?!)

Hopefully we can agree on this: Keith Law was off; Brian Sabean was way off.

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posted by dak  # 9:14 PM
An e-mail from Brisco County notes that Zito ranked 13th among MLB starters in VORP last year -- certainly a better metric than ERA+.

And that certainly makes him look more like a 1 or a 2 than a 3.08.
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