Zito, Pavano continue search for old form

Updated: June 14, 2009

Getty Images

Carl Pavano, left, and Barry Zito have shown signs this year -- small signs -- of their old form.

Barry Zito and Carl Pavano are two pitchers who have had their ups and downs. They both had bright starts and signed big contracts before struggling for extended periods. But recently both have been showing signs of a career renaissance. And they both head to the mound Monday on a light day of action in the majors.

In spring training, one of the Giants told me that Zito was in the best shape he had ever seen him, and that his stuff had started to come back over the final month of the 2008 season. Just recently, another member of the Giants told me that he was "all the way back." I find that hard to believe because that would mean he was back to his Cy Young-winning form, and I don't think he's back that far.

He is getting better and has great pride in what he's doing. So even though as of yet, he is not what the Giants had hoped for when they signed him, he's a pretty good pitcher again. It doesn't always show because of the lack of offensive support he gets from that lineup, but he is back to being an above-average big league pitcher, which is something he hasn't always been in San Francisco.

It's not always easy pitching for the Giants these days. Last year, they became the first team since the 1993 Florida Marlins to fail to hit 100 home runs in a season. The Giants have scored the second-fewest runs (241) of any team in baseball. This doesn't excuse the way Zito's pitched during stretches of his Giants career, but sometimes when you go out and pitch knowing you aren't going to get much support, it can be difficult.

2009 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
12 3 6 33 52 4.09
Zito's worked really hard, made all sorts of adjustments with his delivery and watched all sorts of film. He's gotten himself in really good shape and it's been paying off; he is 3-6, but with a respectable 4.09 ERA. So the thought that he signed a big contract and doesn't care anymore is just not true.

All his troubles really started when he started to lose some of the velocity on his fastball, and then his curveball wasn't what it used to be -- an unbelievable arcing curve that was almost impossible to hit. That curveball was his best pitch and it just kind of went away for a while. What helped compound the issue was the fact that when you are not throwing as hard, a curveball isn't going to be as effective because of the smaller differences in the change of speeds. But it appears that he is starting to get it back.

2009 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
13 6 5 16 57 5.40

I had a long chat with Pavano this spring and it was pretty clear that the way he was portrayed at the end in New York as a guy who wasn't trying hard enough and didn't give his best effort with the Yankees really bothered him. He knew that he had a lot to prove to a lot of people, and this season he has been out to show that his Yankees years were lost years only because he was really hurt. He's done that for the most part this season, going 6-5 with a 5.40 ERA so far this year.

He's had a couple of really bad starts, which have greatly impacted his ERA. In May, he was another well-above-average pitcher (he was 5-1 with a 3.60 ERA). Most people didn't think he could turn it around, but I got the feeling when I spoke with him that he had confidence in himself and just needed an opportunity and perhaps a fresh start.

Offensively, I think the Indians starters will start to get more help with the return of Travis Hafner and the eventual return of Grady Sizemore. That will be a pretty good lineup.

If things keep progressing, I think both Zito and Pavano still have a chance to get close to meeting the high expectations they set earlier in their careers.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 11 | June 10 | June 9 | June 8 | June 7

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem points.

Web Gem points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem points leaderboard
Brandon Inge 24
Ryan Sweeney 19
Nick Punto 17
Michael Bourn 18
Carlos Gomez 18
Three tied 17

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
David Wright New York Mets Third base 8
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 8
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Third base 5
Ryan Sweeney Center field Oakland 5
Michael Bourn Houston Center field 5
Orlando Hudson Second base L.A. Dodgers 5

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Washington 18
Texas 15
New York Mets 15
Philadelphia 15
Cincinnati 15

ON DECK: MONDAY'S MATCHUPS

Brewers at Indians, 7:05 p.m. ET

The Brewers were one of the hottest teams in baseball for much of May. The Brewers have struggled as much as any team in June. Milwaukee enters having lost six of seven and nine of 14 this month. Still, they have been able to maintain their spot atop the NL Central standings. Cleveland, meanwhile, still occupies the basement in the AL Central.

Angels at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

The Angels thought they were ready to take off with the return of John Lackey from the disabled list. It hasn't quite worked out that way, with Lackey struggling since making his season debut on May 16. He is 1-2 with a 6.61 ERA and is coming off a horrible outing against the Rays. He gave up 11 hits and nine runs over five innings in a 9-5 loss.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Fernando Vina
1:30 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Fernando Vina

BBTN MINUTE: BIG START FOR LACKEY

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Insider Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
R. Paulino, Fla2TorTalletTop 2: 2-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
T. Wigginton, Bal4AtlLoweBot 1: 1-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
R. Baldelli, Bos3PhiHappTop 2: 2-0, 0 Outs. None on.
N. Green, Bos3PhiHappTop 2: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on.
A. Rios, Tor9FlaJohnsonBot 4: 1-2, 1 Outs. 1 on.
K. Millar, Tor4FlaJohnsonBot 4: 2-1, 2 Outs. None on.
H. Matsui, NYY10NYMSantanaBot 4: 2-1, 0 Outs. 1 on.
M. Buehrle, CWS1MilLooperTop 3: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on.
R. Cano, NYY11NYMStokesBot 4: 1-2, 3 Outs. 1 on.
C. McGehee, Mil1CWSBuehrleBot 3: 2-2, 0 Outs. None on.
T. Wigginton, Bal5AtlMedlenBot 5: 1-0, 2 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Sunday's homers

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he takes a look at the Rockies, who extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 7-1 victory over the Mariners on Sunday. It's the Rockies, so it must be the hitting, right? Not so fast.

Rock Solid
Past 11 games
W-L 11-0
Saves 5
ERA 2.55
WHIP 1.07
K-BB 78-29

The Rockies have not allowed more than four runs in any game during the winning streak.

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Jered WeaverJered Weaver has won each of the past four times he's headed to the mound. Not a bad stretch, yet his performance Sunday was the best of the bunch. He tossed a complete-game shutout, scattering six hits in a 6-0 win at home against the Padres. Over the four-game run, he has permitted only four runs over 30 innings.
WORST
Dontrelle Willis• Plenty of choices, what with the Mets serving up 15 runs in a 15-0 loss against the Yankees and the Braves falling behind 11-0 after five innings against the Orioles. But the worst was Dontrelle Willis, who couldn't find the plate in a 6-3 loss against the Pirates. Willis walked eight in 3 2/3 innings, and gave up six hits and all six Pirates runs as his ERA climbed to 7.49.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Juan Rivera The Angels' pitching and hitting stars have both spent time on the disabled list this season, and pitcher Scot Shields just had season-ending surgery. Still, the Angels are only 2½ games out of first place in the AL West. Juan Rivera has kept the Angels in the thick of things by being more selective and taking more pitches. Last season, he saw 3.4 pitches per plate appearance, but he is up to 3.8 so far in 2009.

Juan Rivera
2008 2009
OBP .285 .347
K pct. of PA 12.0 8.5
Miss pct. 16.4 11.0
Swing pct. 48.6 45.1

Rivera already has 61 hits and eight home runs this season after collecting 64 and 12 in 2008. All this production has come in 66 fewer at-bats than he had all of last year. While he's seeing more pitches, he is just waiting to get the pitch he wants, as shown by his decreased walk percentage in 2009.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the two games on Monday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes