Monday, April 26, 2010

My silence on the Zambrano issue...

 Because this guy was so bad, Zambrano got demoted to the bullpen.

I've been relatively quite about the move of Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen.


Because I am extremely torn about it.

My initial react was "Good...he deserves it."

But then I started to look at the issue, and based on career statistics, Zambrano would appear to be one of the worst choices to put in the bullpen. Based on those facts alone, someone could claim that Lou Piniella had lost his mind.

But delving deeper into this, it was obvious that the Cubs really had to put a right hander into the bullpen when Ted Lilly came back.  Why?  Well, quite simply, the Cubs had three options for roster moves when Ted Lilly returned on demote Jim Russell, Spellcheck or Justin Berg.  Samardzija made it very easy to decide who, of those three, should be demoted.  Right now, the Cubs are a bit heavy with lefthanders in the pen.  Shawn Marshall, John Grabow and Russell are all left handed.  Sending Tom Gorzellany to the 'pen would mean that one of those three would have to be moved...four lefties in the bullpen is probably too many.  But Russell has been one of the brightspots out has Marshall.  Grabow would have to be put on waivers and the Cubs are on the hook with him for another season after this.

Samardzija had to be demoted.  Period.

So we go back to the rotation...who leaves when Lilly comes back?  We've already removed the possibility of Gorzelanny going.  Dempster, Wells, Silva or Zambrano...who should it be?

Even though he has had extensive experience as a closer, Dempster has been our best starter for the last 2 years.  Period.  He's pitched over 200 innings, has a lower ERA than Lilly or Zambrano, and higher winning percentage over the last 2 seasons...Ryan Dempster is our ace.

Silva?  Silva is a reclamation project for the Cubs...and so far it has worked out spectacularly.  It might not be the wisest course of action to throw him into the bullpen at the point you appear to have corrected a number of the problems he was having the last 3 seasons.  And besides, he has been our best starting pitcher to this point of the season.

Wells?  He's probably, in my opinion, the only other player who the Cubs could even consider for a bullpen role on this team right now.  Wells did actually pitch from relief quite a bit in the minor leagues, most recently in 2007.  But looking as Wells's stuff, you might think he would have a bit of a problem as a reliever.  But one could argue the same about Sean throw that out.

Wells was a better pitcher than Zambrano last year.  Between last year and this point this year Wells has thrown more innings per start, throws fewer pitches per at-bat, higher strike to ball percentage, and has a higher percentage of quality starts than Zambrano has.

Also, Zambrano's career ERA has climbed every year since 2004. 

If looking at overall career stats, Zambrano wins hands down...and I'm sure the SABR-geeks would agree with that.  But in the general stats, over the last season and this season, Wells has been a better pitcher.  Maybe the SABRMetrics say differently...but the things I look at for a starting pitcher seem to lean much more toward Wells.

A couple more things to think about here:

First, which pitcher could best handle being in the bullpen?  If Dempster was the answer for the bullpen, then we probably have a damn good idea what to expect from him.  Silva?  Who knows.  I'm fairly sure any day now, something will snap on him and he'll become shitty again.  Zambrano has the hard fastball, when he chooses to throw it.  He's really good at holding runners on.  He keeps the ball down, which is important when coming into a game with runners on base. And Zambrano is very good at keeping the ball in the ballpark.  Many of these things Wells can do as well.  But with less of a history to judge from, I don't think I'd be as comfortable about what we might expect.

Who can handle pitching in back to back games?  Dempster could.  Silva?  Not sure...depends on the buffet after the first game.  Wells...I doubt it right now.  Zambrano...he throws batting practice left-handed occationally between starts...I'm fairly sure he can go 2 or 3 straight days pitching from relief.

And finally, who can get warmed quickly when the team is in trouble.  Dempster could.  Silva?  There's that buffet thing again.  Wells...judging from the pre-game routine I saw him go through in the second home game this season, I'm doubt it.  Zambrano?  Well, we'll see...I'm not sure.  He's had some starts where he has appeared to have needed some extra warm-up time in the pen.

So, there you have it.  After doing this exercise, I think Zambrano to the pen is ok.  In the end, if the righty/lefty thing was not an issue, Gorzelanny should have been sent there.  It may look like a despirate move by the Cubs, but as I really think about it, I don't think it affects the club all that much.  Samardzija is gone and Lilly is back.  That improves the team drastically.  The particulars of which starter goes to the pen, as long as it is a right hander, doesn't really matter, I think.  So take the player who has performed the poorest so far, and that is Zambrano. 

And so the Cubs have the highest paid relief pitcher in baseball, and probably the best 6th starter as well.


I'm going to tonight's game, so don't expect to hear much from me until the morning.

Orca vs. some kid from the Nationals named Lannan.  I'm hoping that the fact I'm going to be at the game doesn't make Silva snap and he suddenly becomes a bad pitcher again.

This will be my first regular season night game since September 10th, 2001.  Yes, the day before September 11th.  Swear to God, I was at a Cubs game the night before that happened, sitting in the bleachers with my friends Tom (another Cubs fan) and Alex (a Reds fan, which is who the Cubs played that night).  We got home late, and I slept in and took the morning off from work.  When I turned on the TV after I woke up that morning, the first tower had just collapsed. 

Hopefully everything will turn out better tomorrow than it did that morning 9 years ago.