In 2010, the Giants were pegged as a ragtag bunch of misfits who lucked their way into the postseason. 2011 saw a relentless bout of injuries cripple the Giants’ chances of a championship repeat. The 2012 Giants, on the other hand, have both surpassed the level of talent displayed in 2010 and the oddities found in 2011 (well, perhaps not Affeldt’s hamburger patty incident, but we’re getting close).
For instance, take yesterday’s tweet from beat writer Alex Pavlovic:
The Giants have won 10 straight Barry Zito starts. That’s right, the Giants have won 10 straight Barry Zito starts.
— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) September 27, 2012
In five of his ten starts, Zito has allowed two runs or fewer, giving up a single home run and striking out a high of six batters—his second highest single game strikeout record on the season. According to High Heat Stats, Barry has also seen a bit of personal success over his six wins and four no-decisions, with a string of four wins making this his longest consecutive win streak as a Giant.
On average, opponents have managed 6.6 hits off Zito per start, their best effort a 7-hit, 3-run shelling in 2.1 innings by the Houston Astros. Still, the run support for Barry has been nothing short of phenomenal—six times, the Giants have mustered six runs or more, reaching a high of nine runs in three separate games.
So far, so good. However, there is a lot to be said for the quality of lineups the opposing manager throws into any given game. How difficult has Zito’s opposition been during these ten wins?
Seven of ten teams sported records under .500, the lowest a dismal 40-90 by Houston on August 29. Only three teams—the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, and Arizona Diamondbacks—have entered the game with winning records, with the first two teams still active contenders in the NL wild card race.
Finally, and for a bit of context, Zito has not produced this level of consistent effort or seen the necessary support from team offense to match his 10-win streak in any of his previous twelve seasons. In his tenure as a Giant, he’s managed several four-game winning streaks, putting up nine wins and seven no-decisions in 2011, 2009, and 2008. As an Athletic, Barry’s track record improves considerably, with seven streaks of 6+ team wins from 2001-2006. He nearly touched his 2012 record with a nine-game streak in 2001, when he put up nine wins to finish out the season, his worst start a 6-hit, 2-run affair against the Texas Rangers.
While it is wonderful to watch the Giants find the right combination of hitting and pitching (what an unorthodox method of winning games), albeit strange that Barry Zito should be their chosen vehicle for success, I propose we take this winning streak for what it is: a streak. As the Giants climb toward a 95-win season and the ever-approaching NLDS, my only hope is that Zito continues to improve in preparation for a rigorous postseason. If he happens to tack another win or two onto his current streak, well, that’s just icing on the cake.