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.