Barry Zito is 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA and Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News wrote a lengthy article about the oft-criticized southpaw’s resurgence, noting that he’s gone from “the most sunken of sunk costs” to thinking about pitching until he’s Jamie Moyer’s age.
One great month after multiple hugely disappointing seasons obviously doesn’t mean a ton, but what’s interesting about Zito’s turnaround is that it actually dates back to last season. In fact, since last year’s All-Star break Zito has the sixth-best ERA in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings:
Adam Wainwright 141 2.11
Zack Greinke 134 2.29
Tim Lincecum 133 2.30
Chris Carpenter 140 2.38
Felix Hernandez 150 2.39
BARRY ZITO 113 2.46
Roy Halladay 156 2.48
Ubaldo Jimenez 137 2.50
Pretty decent company, huh? Fan Graphs’ detailed pitch breakdowns show that Zito’s fastball velocity hasn’t improved any during his impressive run, but he’s throwing his fastball less often than ever before while simultaneously having more success than ever with his off-speed pitches.
Zito is among the few pitchers to throw his fastball less than 50 percent of the time–with Moyer not coincidentally being another one–which is certainly a sensible approach given that he works in the mid-80s most of the time and has been incredibly effective with both his curveball and slider of late. It remains to be seen if the all junk, all the time approach can keep working for Zito, but it’s been quite a turnaround after heading into last year’s All-Star break at 5-9 with a 5.01 ERA.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.
Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.
While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.