Zito finally pitching like the Zito of old

Giants fans have spent three agonizing years watching Barry Zito ruin perfectly pleasant nights in San Francisco with his horrid pitching. It has been enough to make them want to break his guitar over the back of his head and dump his body on Alcatraz Island.

But this year, he’s finally giving them a reason to chant “Barry, Barry, Barry!” again without fear of the steroid gods judging them.

Heading into last year’s All-Star break, Zito owned a 24-36 record, with a 4.47 ERA through his first 77 starts in a Giants uniform. Considering he signed a seven-year, $126 million contract in 2006, it’s safe to say that San Francisco wasn’t getting its money out of the lefty.

But since that point, Zito has compiled a 2.38 ERA in 21 starts. In the second half last season, he was a respectable third starter behind Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. This year, he’s gone from being respectable to being the pitcher the Giants thought they had signed back in ’06.

After picking up another win in a masterful performance against the Marlins on Wednesday night, Zito is now 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA. Skeptics will point out that his fastball still doesn’t have much life to it, but it’s hard to argue that his curve and change aren’t weapons of mass destruction again. More importantly, he seems to be pitching without the burden of the contract weighing him down. He’s been a much smarter pitcher in his last 21 starts than he’s ever been at any point during his time in San Fran.

Chances are that Zito will never live up to his contract. Fans are just going to have to learn to bite down and swallow hard on that bitter pill. But at least to this point, they can take solace in that he has found a way to turn back the clock and has helped the Giants get off to a good start in the NL West. In Lincecum, Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and now a resurrected Zito, the G-Men arguably have the best 1-4 in baseball. And if they continue to get quality outings from their $126 million man, it won’t be long before they’re snapping their six-year playoff drought.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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