From the moment the Giants signed Zito to that absurd $126 million contract, most of us in the Bay Area thought the Giants had gone nuts. Here was a guy that really didn't seem to be a No. 1 starter anymore and who hadn't really regained his Cy Young form from 2002 when he went 23-5.
While definitely a valuable pitcher - his career ERA is 3.55 and he's got a very good win percentage - he just didn't seem to be worth what the Giants gave him.
Until this stat popped up.
According to a final game note in a recap from Zito's recent victory over the Phillies, Zito is an unreal 89-4 in his career when the team he pitches for scores at least 4 runs. Although we're not sure how many no decisions are in there, we know that if you get Zito 4 runs he's nearly unbeatable. Considering how many games I've seen where starting pitchers blow 4-run leads (thanks to Andy Pettitte, although he didn't get the loss Sunday night), this seems like an incredibly impressive stat.
But the problem is that while this stat obviously came from somewhere, there's hardly any quantified data that we can find on how well a pitcher performs given a certain amount of run support. Supposedly MLB has a data set of every box score in its history that can calculate something like this. This would seem like a decent stat in determining how dominant a pitcher is. We'd love to see the win-loss total for guys like Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens when they've gotten a 4-run or greater lead. I can't think any of them could have much better numbers than Zito.
We all know that people talk about how run support can have an impact on a starter's record, but we rarely look at how dominant a pitcher is when he gets a certain minimum amount of run support.
Although we can't tell if 89-4 is out of this world or not, because again we're not sure how many no decisions are in there, we'll take it. And while Zito's contract is still without question absolutely crazy (seeing as he's 6-5 currently), it seems a bit less crazy now.