What happened to Barry Zito?

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There’s a column by Chris Jones up at Grantland. It’s about Barry Zito and it tries to figure out what has happened to the guy.

The premise: the famous Scott Boras binder, which he creates for all of his free agent clients, ruined him.  That it set a level of expectations and created a level of awareness in Zito that took him out of his zen-like live-in-the-moment mindset which gave him so much success when he was in Oakland.

It’s an interesting article and a good read whether you buy into that premise or not.  For my part, I think there’s probably a little something to it, because certainly the expectations and mood around Zito changed when he signed that deal with the Giants and that has to have at least some kind of an impact on a guy.

But I also tend to think that it’s a bit simpler than that too.  Zito was good, but not great in Oakland. Certainly not after his great 2002 and 2003 seasons.  In the three years before crossing the bay he was beginning to settle in to the classic soft-tossing lefty groove. And unless you’re Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer, that doesn’t presage greatness, even if soft-tossing lefties are somewhat useful things to have around. Add in a downtick in velocity and you have a pretty good explanation of Barry Zito’s performance over the past five seasons.

The Giants gave $126 million to poor man’s Charlie Liebrandt, and that’s what they’ve got for the most part.  It’s not a terrible mystery nor is it a psychological case study.

Watch: George Springer robs Todd Frazier with an incredible catch at the wall

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Perhaps there are a few who still miss the slope of Tal’s Hill rising from center field, but George Springer isn’t one of them. He lassoed a 403-foot fly ball from Todd Frazier in the seventh inning of Game 6, reaching nearly to the top of the wall to prevent the Yankees from gaining on the Astros’ 3-0 lead.

According to Statcast, a fly ball with an exit velocity of 103.6 MPH and a launch angle of 29 degrees lands for a home run 72% of the time. That wasn’t going to fly with the Astros, who were facing runners on first and second with one out and saw Justin Verlander‘s pitch count rapidly approaching 100.

It wasn’t long before the Yankees tried for another home run, however, and this one sailed far above the heads of all of the Astros’ outfielders. Aaron Judge lofted a 425-foot shot to left field in the eighth inning, destroying a first-pitch fastball from Brad Peacock and finally getting New York on the board.

The Yankees currently trail the Astros 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth.