Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 4/9/12

When something like today's events transpire at Coors Field, one just has to stop and accept the unacceptable. Believe the unbelievable. Fathom the unfathomable. Prepare for the Apocalypse. 

For the first time in just under nine years, San Francisco Giants left-handed fifth starter/albatross Barry Zito threw a shutout, and in the most offensively charged environment in baseball, just to make that more ridiculous: a 7-0, 4-hit mastery of the Colorado Rockies.

The circumstances of this particular win are some of the more remarkable you'll ever see. Barry Zito's total Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement Level since becoming a Giant five seasons ago is 6.6. Five pitchers in baseball eclipsed that mark in 2011 alone. If you go by the value of Zito's contract compared to WAR, he is currently overpaid by about $70 million or so (depending on how much wins above replacement cost over the last five seasons). Last year, you and I, who never stepped onto a professional baseball field to throw an inning, was more valuable by WAR than Zito was, and he got paid $18.5 million.

So when the big lefty, who has begun his sixth season with San Francisco, said that he had "tinkered with his delivery," many believed it was the same old song and dance from the 33-year-old. He was an also-ran compared to last year's biggest also-ran Ryan Vogelsong, who was able to reach back and have a comeback season at age 34. And on a team that included Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, he was suddenly trying to figure out if Ryan Surkamp really could make the team over him in camp this year. So to say that Barry Zito had basically hit the bottom of the barrel was an understatement.

But wait, there's more.

The Giants had just gotten swept in Arizona, seeing their top three starters go down in flames with consecutive one-run losses. And with Vogelsong injured and unavailable to start their series opener with the Rockies, it ended up being Zito's turn to take the bump. Suffice to say, Giants fans weren't enthused about what might take place on that Monday afternoon.

But then Zito put together a 114-pitch, 71-strike outing along the lines of what made him such a coveted free agent after the 2006 season. He had four strikeouts, no walks, a 10/8 flyout-to-groundout ratio and never had a batter get past second base. He allowed only one extra-base hit. He rarely went to a 3-ball count. And when he did, the Rockies still couldn't hit him or take a walk.

Before today's start, Barry Zito was owned in 1% of all ESPN fantasy leagues. I actually had a chance to pick him up in my 20-team keeper league when one of my starters went down and I took Derek Lowe instead. Lowe had a good first start, but not anywhere near as good as Zito's. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I regret not picking him up.

Incredibly, the Giants got their first win of the season not behind one of their Three Aces, but behind the pitcher who sums up Brian Sabean's tenure as the general manager of the Giants: Overpaid, underperforming and someone who drives Giants fans crazy.

Zito most likely will not have a start as good as this for the rest of the season. In fact, this might have been the last great Zito start of his career. But for him to have that type of performance under the circumstances that he did, it can't be denied that regardless of the luck that comes with a start like this (and with so many balls going into play, it has to) Zito did something that washed away the foul taste in the mouths of both his teammates and the fans that cheer them. If Zito can go out and do this, the Giants should see this as an opportunity to follow his lead, as strange as that sounds.

Perhaps it's the overpaid left-hander that pushes this team forward after all.

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