Barry Zito reached base all three times at the plate including once that allowed San Francisco to score their only run, and threw seven scoreless innings to give the Giants a 1-0 win over St. Louis in front of their opening day crowd. It was the 10th time this season that a Major League Pitcher won a game despite needing to register an “ERA Needed” of 3.00 or lower (see the table below for all 10).
With one out in the fourth inning, Gregor Blanco walked, Brandon Crawford singled him to second, and then Zito laid down a sacrifice bunt and beat it out on a rare error by catcher Yadier Molina to load the basis. Angel Pagan then drew a walk to score a run that would not have scored if Zito had not been safe on his bunt.
ERA Needed starts with the number of runs a pitcher’s team scores for him in a game, then subtracts how many unearned runs were scored against him due to errors, runs given up by relievers, and then 0.5 runs for any run that the pitcher either scored himself or drove in with an RBI. The following are the ten appearances during the opening week of the season that a pitcher won despite needing lower than a 3.00 ERA (3.00 ERA Needed actually means a 3.00 ERA would have left the game tied, so the pitcher needed to allow LOWER than that number). Zito needed lower than a 1.29 ERA during his seven innings to win, the third hardest win of any pitcher to date:
I first debuted ERA Needed in the New York Post in 1990.
A strong season from Zito could complete a Giants rotation and give them a strong chance at another World Series title. His first four years he had an ERA of below 3.50 every season in going 61-29. However, his ERA has never been below 3.50 in the nine seasons since, including a 5.87 ERA in a shortened 2011 season.
In 2012, he came back with a strong 15-8 record but only a mediocre 4.15 ERA, and then dominated in his first three playoffs performance in six years with a 2-0 mark and 1.69 ERA.
During his first four seasons Zito added 19.4 wins over what the A’s would have won without him, according to the key baseball figure WAR (Wins Above Replacement). However, in the nine years since he totaled only 13.7 total wins, less than one and a half a year to make him one of the most overpaid players in baseball based on the dollars spent per win created by a player.