When the Atlanta Braves were racking up first-place finishes in the National League East, they relied on a trio of starting pitchers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. When the Moneyball Oakland A’s were in their prime, they followed a similar strategy, building a team around a core of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. The San Francisco Giants the past few years? Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner. And, at the back of the rotation, Barry Zito.
After the 2011 season, Lincecum was one year removed from back-to-back Cy Young awards and Zito had pitched 821.2 innings of 4.55 ERA baseball since joining the Giants five years earlier. It was clear who was the ace and who belonged at the back of the rotation. But is it still?
Barry Zito signed a seven-year $126 million deal with the Giants after a 2006 season that was arguably the worst of his career. The lefty, known for his sweeping curveball, put up his third highest ERA, highest WHIP, second highes...