I have been pleased to see that Barry Zito has put together some strong outings as of late, including a 7-inning effort in the San Francisco Giants 10-2 win over the Colorado Rockies last night. It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride for the former Cy Young Award winner the past few years. One minute he’s an ace. The next minute he’s struggling to stay in the Giants’ starting rotation. It always seems to be an uphill battle for Zito. Every spring, he pitches himself into a hole, compiling a win-loss record of something like 1-6 with a 7.26 ERA to start June. He then spends the remainder of the season trying to get right. In general, he’s a much better second-half pitcher and tends to have a string of strong performances late in the season, though it’s usually not enough to push his winning percentage over .500, get his ERA under 4.00 or live up to his $126 million contract.
I don’t think Zito fails because of mechanics or effort. I think his problems generally boil down to nerves, a lack of confidence. I know this because I experience the same sort of struggles on my job. I work in sales, for an Internet startup, and I spend my days cold-calling businesses, pitching my firm’s service. One minute, I am on fire, getting through to lots of business owners, setting up free trial accounts and closing deals. However, if I go a few days without a trial or a closed account, my pitch quickly goes to shit. My anxiety spikes every time I get a live person on the phone, I speak faster, stammer when given objections, and sigh when they invariably hang up the phone on me. It can be pitiful to listen to.
I tend to easily forget that I’ve been successful before in my job, that everyone is rooting for me to succeed and I have all the tools to make this happen. My guess is that Zito has a comparable inner monologue. Still, I know how reassuring it is for me when I start succeeding again. Zito must be feeling pretty good today. I hope he keeps up the good work.