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.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.
Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.
The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.
Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.
Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.
After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.
It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.
LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.
Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.