Thursday, September 2, 2010

And just when you want to hate him the most...Z becomes good again.

After Monday's game, I began to think, you know, Z hasn't pitched too poorly since he returned to the starting rotation.

I have to be honest with you all…I have not paid very close attention to his starts in August until Monday. He looked very good that evening. His pitch count was a little high, but he pitched smart and was in control.

So, now I’ve taken the opportunity to look at stats over Z’s 5 starts…they are impressive.

Now, I’m a bit late to the game on this, numerous columnists have already reported most of what I’m staying here…but the stats speak for themselves…

In his 5 starts in August, Z did this…

Record: 3-0
ERA: 1.84
IP: 29 1/3
Hits: 24
Opp. BA: .224
Opp. HR: 0

All very good numbers. His season ERA has dropped almost a full point.

The only thing that is a strike against Z in his 5 starts has been walks; he has given up 20 in that stretch.

What does this all mean? Should the Cubs try to get rid of him? Is he fixed for good? I don’t know. We’ve seen Z get really good for periods of time in the past, then revert to icky Z again.

What do you do with Carlos Zambrano? Z receives $17.875 million next year and $18 million in 2012. At this point, is seems unlikely his option will vest for 2013 (needs to finish in the top 4 in Cy Young voting in 2012 or top 2 in 2011). That’s a big chunk of change. If there was just one year left on the deal, it seems like the Cubs could just let him play out the contract and have him be their #3 or #4 starter next year. But it is 2 years…two more years with the Cubs in the middle of a major rebuilding process.

You then have to ask yourselves, would the Cubs consider keeping Zambrano after the contract is up? By 2012, the Cubs should be (well, they better be) contending again. If the answer to that question is ‘No’ then the Cubs must move Z now, no matter the cost. If the answer is ‘maybe’ or ‘Yes’, then we all need to deal with the fact that Zambrano will be here next year and in 2012.

So what has Z’s performance over the last 3 weeks done? He has changed the answer to that question from ‘No’ to ‘maybe’.

Everyone assumed after the dugout incident that Z was going to be run out of town. He was pitching poorly. He wasn’t helping the team. Z was not in the plans for the future. But the Cubs did something very interesting. They stopped for a minute, took a deep breath and then they tried to help Z out (unlike Milton Bradley last year). Now things have changed.

And with that being the case, I think Jim Hendry will choose to keep the big guy in a Cubs uniform. A lot of time and energy have been spent on Z. The Cubs will probably want to see if it can pay off now instead of letting another team benefit.

YEAH, Dammit.