Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito (75) delivers a pitch during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
Monday afternoon, Barry Zito twirled a complete-game shutout of the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field. A complete and utter fluke: yes. An opportunity to learn a lesson you already knew: yes.
When I was in college, I didn't make a whole lot of money. I did know an awful lot about baseball. I got it in my head that I could put my knowledge of baseball to use and bet on games so as to turn my embarrassing amount of money into a less embarrassing amount of money. I lost $250 in one weekend. I never bet on baseball again.
The first complete-game shutout of the 2010 season was thrown by Livan Hernandez, against the Milwaukee Brewers. Maybe Livan isn't the guy you would've guessed, but he threw his game in Nationals Park, and Nationals Park is fairly neutral. The first complete-game shutout of the 2011 season was thrown by Jaime Garcia, against the San Diego Padres. Nothing weird there. Would've been weirder if Jaime Garcia didn't throw a complete-game shutout against the San Diego Padres.
The first complete-game shutout of the 2012 season is now officially in the books. It was thrown by Barry Zito. Against the . In Coors Field.
Naturally, it was Zito's first shutout since 2003. Back then, he shut out the Texas Rangers, which would've been similarly unthinkable. But then, Zito was better in 2003 than he is in 2012, and he didn't blank the Rangers in the Rangers' home.
The whole thing is so absurd. Here's what happened, in a sentence: Barry Zito picked up the Giants' first win by spinning a shutout in Coors Field. Now let's break it down:
Barry Zito picked up the Giants' first win
by spinning a shutout
in Coors Field.
There have now been 19 complete-game shutouts in Coors Field's history. Nine have been thrown by a visitor. Three have been thrown by lefties: Zito, and Tom Glavine twice. Of course, shutouts in Coors are a little easier with the humidor than they used to be, but then there wasn't a single one in 2007, 2009, or 2010. A shutout in Coors Field is still more remarkable than a shutout anywhere else.
It's instructive to look over the names of guys who've accomplished the feat. Hey look, there's Pedro Martinez. Makes sense. Roy Oswalt, too, and Glavine isn't a shock. Then there's Brian Bohanon in 1999. Dave Mlicki in 1998. Sun-Woo Kim in 2005. Barry Zito in 2012.
There are Coors Field shutouts that you can understand, and there are Coors Field shutouts that you can't. Today, Barry Zito wasn't anything but Barry Zito. He threw barely three-fifths of his pitches for strikes. He made the Rockies miss just seven times. He threw his fastball with that same average velocity he probably doesn't mention at parties. But that Barry Zito hurled nine shutout innings in what's still a hitter's paradise.
The lesson here is not that offense is on an irreversible, dramatic decline. The lesson is that baseball will be baseball, and you can never predict when it's going to be its baseballiest.
Our own Grant Brisbee likes to write that, if Ryan Vogelsong can come back and have his 2011, pretty much any player can do anything. If the Vogelsong Principle applies to full seasons, the Zito/Coors Principle applies to individual games. If Barry Zito can shut out the Colorado Rockies for nine innings in their own park, anybody can do anything in any stadium on any particular day. It's like any given Sunday, except in a sport that doesn't kill people.
It's funny - Barry Zito has been drawing comparisons to Jamie Moyer with alarmingly increasing frequency as his fastball has eroded over the years. It's the Colorado Rockies who are paying Moyer to pitch in 2012. You'd think that might be the worst possible environment for his skills. Barry Zito just turned an approximation of those skills into nine innings and a 0.00 ERA.
There's nothing profound here, and you won't find anything profound no matter how long and how deep you dig. Barry Zito isn't a new pitcher all of a sudden. The Rockies aren't screwed all of a sudden. Coors Field isn't going to be littered with complete-game shutouts all of a sudden. This is an outlier. But it's now the latest outlier that reminds us never to take anything for granted. I'm about to turn on the television to watch Hector Noesi and the Seattle Mariners face Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers, in Texas. Jesus Montero is sick and out of the Seattle lineup. The odds are heavily stacked against the Mariners, and they're probably going to lose. But we can't assume that. We can't assume anything.
With Zito pitching in Colorado, people assumed. Zito shut them up. Monday afternoon, Barry Zito did a lot of shutting.