Fernando Torres is not what he used to be. No one can argue that. The former Liverpool striker with luscious locks has bagged a paltry number if goals since his expensive transfer. Many people wonder, how did this happen? How did arguably the best striker in the world at the time deteriorate in to the pure work rate/incapable of scoring striker we see today? There have been several explanations and parallels to the case of Fernando Torres. I will talk about two parallels and go a bit in depth about them. These parallels are Steve Blass and Barry Zito. Both are baseball players whose careers sort of fell apart after initial greatness.
I will talk about Barry Zito first since most will see the closest parallel with him. Barry Zito was a Cy Young winning pitcher with the Oakland Athletics. He posted All Star level numbers for several years with the A's, and did indeed make the All Star game three times. In his last few years with Oakland, his numbers started getting significantly worse, though he was still regarded as one of the best pitchers in baseball. After the 2006 season, Zito became a free agent. He signed a $126 million comtract with the San Francisco Giants, one of the largest ever at the time.
Before we talk about his decline, you have to understand Zito's pitching style. Zito was a soft-tossing pitcher with an orgasmic curveball. He didnt throw very hard and his control was never great. He mixed his pitches well and used his velocity and curveball to beat batters. By 2006, Zito's velocity had declined. It continued to decline throughout his career with the Giants, save for a few temporary spikes.
He was regarded as an expensive flop and fans started to detest him. He was given a lot of flak and even deleted his Twitter account because he couldn't handle the abuse anymore. However, he was lauded for his exemplary attitude and charitable contributions. Just an all around great person. Still, without his velocity, Zito got hit hard all the time.
However, in the 2012 season he had a bit of redemption. He had a 15-8 record. All he did was win, though his pitching performances were only marginally better. Zito would make the World Series roster, something he was left off of in 2010, though he handled that dropping with grace. He pitched poorly in his first game against the Reds. Next series, with the Giants down 0-3 in the series to the Cardinals, Zito pitched a gem and helped spark the Giant's series comeback. Finally, in the World Series Final he out pitched Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball that year in the opening game. He even got a few hits. The year after Zito was back to his original self and the Giants bought his contract out. His contract was known as a flop but people were grateful for his 2012 contributions and outstanding attitude.
So who else does that remind you of? Torres was a top player for years. While Zito simply wore down and lost velocity, Torres sustained several injuries and never recovered from them. Torres went for a huge transfer fee while Zito signed a huge contract. Zito had average control and very average velocity which once he lost, he lost his ability to get batters out. Torres had blistering pace but average dribbling. Without his pace he is a shadow of his former self. Torres has been lauded for his attitude and work for the team, much like Zito. Fernando also had several redemption moments, (the corner, Barca), and one "better" season, the Rafa era season. Both won more with their second teams than with their first teams. The parallels between the two are huge right? Yes. However, they are a bit different. Zito's decline can be chalked up to being all physical. Once he lost his velocity, he was a goner. Torres lost his pace. That's true. However, there was a mental aspect to it too. Which brings me to......
Steve Blass disease. Steve Blass was a All Star pitcher for the Pirates. He won a World Series with them. He was a very good pitcher who could throw strikes......until one day he couldn't. After the 1972 season, Blass lost all control of his pitches. Inexplicably, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn when he pitched. This "disease" has struck several baseball players even in different positions. Steve Sax couldn't complete a throw to first base. He had thirty errors one season, though he somehow "fixed" himself.
The most recent example is Daniel Bard. He was a setup man for the Red Sox until he suddenly began to lose his control. He was recently released from the Ranger's organization. He had a 175.50 ERA in Single A. Anyone familiar with baseball will realize how mind boggling that is.
Some people say the cause is that one poor moment destroys an athlete's confidence. They lose the confidence to repeat what they had tried before. The reigning theory is that it's all mental- one mistake leads the player to start overthinking a simple act, like kicking or throwing a ball.
Remind you of someone again? A lot of commenters talk of how Torres seems to over think things and how he has a lack of confidence. It seems like he mentally hurts his own performance. A few commenters have brought up his miss versus Man U. If he had made that, would he have been a much better striker? Who knows. He probably wouldn't have been the Liverpool Torres. But he might have been better than what we get now. Personally, I think Torres's current downfall is a mix of both. He physically declined which made it harder for him to perform. He then missed and just mentally lost his confidence.
So tell me what you guys think! Am I right, was it a mix of both? Do you subscribe to the Zito- physical decline theory? Or do you think it was all mental and he is suffering from Steve Blass Disease? Or am I just flat out wrong?