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Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


ESPN INSIDER ARTICLE, ROB NEYER

I don't pay all that much attention to quotes in the newspapers. I used to. I used to spend a goodly amount of my precious electronic space running down ridiculous things I read in the papers and magazines. But I got tired of doing that. So did you, probably.

Then the other day, I saw this one in the New York Times, Scott Boras talking about his most eligible bachelor/client -- "With Barry Zito, I don't need any perception. Sometimes, I need help. Not on this one. It's rather obvious. He's a special player" -- and I took it as a recall to arms.

Boras doesn't need any help on this one, huh? So why did he say this, just a couple of weeks ago?

"He is, next to Greg Maddux, the most durable pitcher to hit the marketplace in more than 30 years He's never missed a start his entire career. He is a winner and he is durable. In the last 25 or 30 years, only two pitchers have pitched 200 innings every year and had over 100 victories for six years."


That was in the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 5, reported by Henry Schulman. Sure, there's nothing untoward about stating the facts if they help your client. And Boras' assertions look reasonable enough. Is Zito the "most durable pitcher to hit the marketplace in more than 30 years?" Depends on how you define "most durable" and "marketplace." Is Zito a winner? Well, he's won more games than he's lost. Is he durable? However you define durable, Zito certainly qualifies, because it's true that he's never missed a start in his career.

What about that other claim, though? Let's be fair, and focus on just the last 25 years. How many pitchers have, over a six-season span, pitched at least 200 innings in each season and won more than 100 games?

Two, as Boras said? Nope.

Three? Nope.

Four? Nope.

Without looking all that hard, I found five: Randy Johnson did it once (that is, over one span of six seasons); Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, and Jack Morris each did it twice, and Maddux did it nine times (consecutively, beginning in 1988).

Hey, anybody can make a mistake, right? Maybe when Boras said "two" he really meant to say "four or five," or maybe he was misquoted. But here's the thing: Barry Zito has not done this. In his (only) six full seasons, Zito has pitched at least 200 innings in each, but he has not won more than 100 games; he's won 95 (he's got 102 career wins because he won seven in his short rookie season).

Boras doesn't need any help? I read this in USA Today, a bit more than a month ago:


Boras says Zito, 28, is destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he's 35. There's a fancy 74-page glossy book to prove it.
"You're talking about a very special guy who has never missed a start," Boras says. "His durability has been rewarded with 102 wins. He has (a Cy Young trophy) in his back pocket. He has three All-Stars. He beat ( Minnesota's Johan) Santana, the best pitcher in baseball, in the postseason.

"Barry could be one of the best left-handed pitchers of all time. Players like this are Maddux-esque."

Zito does have that Cy Young trophy. Jack McDowell has one, too. He did beat Johan Santana in the postseason. Also, Johnny Kucks once beat Don Newcombe in the postseason. Dave McNally beat Don Drysdale. John Candelaria beat Jim Palmer. Et cetera to infinity, plus one.

Is Zito likely to become the finest left-handed starter since Carlton? His competition includes Johnson (five Cy Young trophies, 280 wins and counting) and Tom Glavine (two Cy Young trophies, 290 wins and counting). It's one thing to suggest that Zito's going to wind up in the Hall of Fame -- unlikely, but certainly conceivable -- and quite another to say he's going to be even better than the currently active left-handers who we know are going to be Hall of Famers (not to mention Jamie Moyer, Kenny Rogers, Santana, Andy Pettitte and Mark Buehrle).

And of course, comparing Zito to Maddux is even sillier. As good as Johnson and Glavine have been, Maddux has been better. Zito has one thing in common with Maddux, or perhaps two: He doesn't throw a million miles an hour, but he'll give you a million innings.

Even that, though … Zito's been wonderfully durable, but not uniquely. With 1,338 innings over the last six seasons, Zito's only third in the majors over that span, behind Livan Hernandez and Buehrle (and four other pitchers have racked up at least 1,300 innings).

Boras says that Zito is a "special player," but what exactly makes him special? How good is Zito, really? It's obvious that he's not Maddux-esque, or Carlton-esque, or Glavine-esque. But is Zito even Oswalt-esque, or Halladay-esque? Buehrle-esque?

Before trying to put him in some sort of context, let's split Zito's six full seasons in half: 2001-2003 (Part 1), and 2004-2006 (Part 2, so far) …


        Starts Innings BB SO HR ERA RSAA
Part 1 105 675 246 533 61 [sign in to see URL] 92
Part 2 103 662 269 485 81 [sign in to see URL] 34

Through the 2003 season, Zito was a special pitcher (by the way, RSAA stands for Runs Saved Above Average, courtesy of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia). Since 2003, though? Not so much. The walks and homers and ERA are up ( i.e. bad), the strikeouts and Runs Saved Above Average are down (ditto).

How does Zito compare to some of the other top young starters in the game? Considering only 2004 through 2006, here are some of our special pitchers:


        Starts Innings ERA RSAA
Santana 101 693 [sign in to see URL] 137
Oswalt 102 699 [sign in to see URL] 93
B. Webb 101 672 [sign in to see URL] 87
C'penter 93 645 [sign in to see URL] 85
Halladay 72 495 [sign in to see URL] 80
Zito 103 662 [sign in to see URL] 34

That is not an exhaustive list, by any means. Over the last three seasons, Zito ranks just 27th among starters in Runs Saved Above Average. With 34, he's behind not only those luminaries listed above, but also (among others) fellow left-handers Buehrle (58 RSAA), Pettitte (56), Dontrelle Willis (48), Rogers (46), Glavine (40) and C.C. Sabathia (36). We might be charitable, and bump Zito up a few spots because he's been pitching in the tougher league. Still pretty hard to argue that he's one of the 20 best starters in the majors (especially if we give Oakland's defense as much credit for his recent success as it probably deserves).

Why is Boras so desperately trying to create this perception of Zito as a truly special player? Because that's what agents do. I'll bet Boras knows exactly how good Zito is. Or if he doesn't, he's got a bunch of bright people in his office who do. I'll bet that 74-page glossy book doesn't contain any out-and-out lies. Lying in print isn't good business. But I'll bet it doesn't mention that over the last three seasons Zito's been a good pitcher but not a great one. I'll bet it doesn't mention that he's not one of the dozen best pitchers in the majors, and probably not even better than Buehrle or Sabathia.

In today's inflated market, where Gil Meche is paid $11 million per season to be humdrum, Zito is worth something like $15 million per season, if only because he's so reliable. But Zito's agent doesn't want $15 million. He wants $17 million or more, and he's going to get that only if he can convince some team that Zito's new six-year contract is going to cover the middle years of a Hall of Fame career.

Considering the financial profligacy that we've seen over the last 25 (or 30) years, does anybody want to bet that he can't?

Last edited by fuqthebums, 12/19/2006, 5:37 pm
12/19/2006, 5:34 pm Link to this post   
 
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Thanks - lower that market, Neyer!
12/19/2006, 5:47 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


Brilliant article. Way to break it down, Neyer.
12/19/2006, 8:17 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


Dont get ahead of yourself Borass.

Why dont you wait until Zito is 35 to say this? "Zito is destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he's 35"


I think borass overrates his clients by a lot. Like Bernie Williams for example. Borass wanted the Yanks to pay Bernie 40HRs money while Borass knows that Bernie is only capable of 20 HRs at most and should only deserve 20 HRs money. GREEDY SOB BORASS!!!

12/20/2006, 12:18 am Link to this post   
 
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Still, if people are willing to pay, why reject the offers?
12/20/2006, 11:11 am Link to this post   
 
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


quote:

ultimategiantsfan wrote:

Dont get ahead of yourself Borass.

Why dont you wait until Zito is 35 to say this? "Zito is destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he's 35"


I think borass overrates his clients by a lot. Like Bernie Williams for example. Borass wanted the Yanks to pay Bernie 40HRs money while Borass knows that Bernie is only capable of 20 HRs at most and should only deserve 20 HRs money. GREEDY SOB BORASS!!!




Dude, that's his job. If you have a problem with capitalism, that's fine - but, don't call someone greedy when their job is to get the most money for their client and they succeed in doing so.
12/20/2006, 11:47 am Link to this post   
 
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


quote:

donkekus wrote:

quote:

ultimategiantsfan wrote:

Dont get ahead of yourself Borass.

Why dont you wait until Zito is 35 to say this? "Zito is destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he's 35"


I think borass overrates his clients by a lot. Like Bernie Williams for example. Borass wanted the Yanks to pay Bernie 40HRs money while Borass knows that Bernie is only capable of 20 HRs at most and should only deserve 20 HRs money. GREEDY SOB BORASS!!!




Dude, that's his job. If you have a problem with capitalism, that's fine - but, don't call someone greedy when their job is to get the most money for their client and they succeed in doing so.



Dude, quit raggin on board users. We're entitled to opinions, no?
12/20/2006, 12:22 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


I saw this little factoid in a article on Zito in the Seattle Times:

[sign in to see URL]

Boras will almost certainly seek a six- or seven-year contract for Zito in excess of $100 million. Only two pitchers in baseball history have signed nine-figure deals: Mike Hampton in 2001 (eight years, $121 million by the Colorado Rockies) and Kevin Brown in 1999 (seven years, $105 million by the Dodgers).





At least those worked out well.

---
What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things.
12/20/2006, 12:24 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


quote:

fuqthebums wrote:

quote:

donkekus wrote:

quote:

ultimategiantsfan wrote:

Dont get ahead of yourself Borass.

Why dont you wait until Zito is 35 to say this? "Zito is destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he's 35"


I think borass overrates his clients by a lot. Like Bernie Williams for example. Borass wanted the Yanks to pay Bernie 40HRs money while Borass knows that Bernie is only capable of 20 HRs at most and should only deserve 20 HRs money. GREEDY SOB BORASS!!!




Dude, that's his job. If you have a problem with capitalism, that's fine - but, don't call someone greedy when their job is to get the most money for their client and they succeed in doing so.



Dude, quit raggin on board users. We're entitled to opinions, no?



Yes, we're all entitled to our opinions. And, I'm entitled to mine. emoticon


12/20/2006, 12:44 pm Link to this post   
 
fuqthebums Profile
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Re: Neyer: Zito is good but is he really worth it?


quote:

donkekus wrote:

quote:

fuqthebums wrote:

quote:

donkekus wrote:

quote:

ultimategiantsfan wrote:

Dont get ahead of yourself Borass.

Why dont you wait until Zito is 35 to say this? "Zito is destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he's 35"


I think borass overrates his clients by a lot. Like Bernie Williams for example. Borass wanted the Yanks to pay Bernie 40HRs money while Borass knows that Bernie is only capable of 20 HRs at most and should only deserve 20 HRs money. GREEDY SOB BORASS!!!




Dude, that's his job. If you have a problem with capitalism, that's fine - but, don't call someone greedy when their job is to get the most money for their client and they succeed in doing so.



Dude, quit raggin on board users. We're entitled to opinions, no?



Yes, we're all entitled to our opinions. And, I'm entitled to mine. emoticon





Exactly. Are you inferring that it is an "opinion" to tell someone not to bash on capitolism and greed? Sounds a lot like telling someone what do to. In fact, you didn't even express an opinion. You simply suppressed someone else's. Just like in 90% of your posts. You seem to concentrate on bashing members of this message board, as opposed to contributing thoughtful commentary. But hey, that's just my opinion.


12/20/2006, 1:43 pm Link to this post   
 


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