Are we really doing the “Barry Zito has figured it out” thing again?

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There’s an article in the San Francisco Chronicle San Jose Mercury News about Barry Zito’s return to fine form. It’s totally encouraging:

Zito is off to one of the best starts of a 13-year career that has been mostly downhill since he came to the Giants in 2007. His first four starts have produced a 1.67 ERA, and opposing hitters have a .186 batting average. He is 1-0, having pitched a shutout against the Rockies in Colorado.

The article says this could be the product of Zito being happily married and now having a personal catcher in Hector Sanchez that has him pitching like he’s back in Oakland again.

Which is great — who doesn’t want to be happy? — but it’s not like we haven’t seen Zito have nice starts like this before.  Remember early May 2010?

Not only is Zito now 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA this season, he has a 2.38 ERA in 21 starts dating back to last year’s All-Star break.

He ended that season watching the Giants win the World Series as a spectator. Then he spent much of 2011 on the DL, out of the rotation and being rumored as a candidate to be released.

This happens with Zito. And with all players who aren’t all that good.  Sure, I want him to be successful because I still remember him when he had Cy Young form and liked that an awful lot, but we can’t read too much into the small sample sizes and early season success.  To do so is to get suckered.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.