Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zambrano shouldn't pinch hit

You know, it's sort of a fun novelty:  a pitcher who can belt home runs.

In a blowout game it might be worth it just for kicks and giggles.

But Mike Quade made that statement the other day that he'd consider using Carlos Zambrano as a pinch hitter...that's just wrong.

Last season Zambrano had an OPS of .543...which is below is career number of .631...both of which, I think we should agree, are below what we should be looking for from a pinch hitter. 

To put this in perspective a little bit, Koyie Hill, who was probably the most maligned player from the 2010 Cubs, had a better OPS last year with a mark of .552.  Looking at career stats, Hill a slightly worse hitter than Zambrano, but I don't see Hill coming up to the plate in too many important pinch hitting situations either.

The core of the Cubs bench last year which included Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Tyler Colvin, and Xavier Nady all had better statistics last season than Z has had over his career.  I would hope that the regular bench this season, which will likely include Baker, Colvin, Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney (along with the pointless Koyie Hill), will all have better stats than Z would be projected to put up.

But that's just one aspect of this issue.  The other is the risk of injury to one to the two most important players for the 2011 season to be successful (with Ramirez...Aramis, not Max...being the other).  Z is very strong and very athletic...but with him hitting and running the bases, he is doing something that, in relative terms, he spends very little time working on. The likelihood increases for injury, no matter how fit a player is, when he has to make a cut to get back to a base or diving to avoid a tag when he doesn't practice it or do it on a daily basis. 
I'd rather see hit something in a dugout than hit in a pinch.
Now I'm going from facts to mere observation now, but very often in innings where Z has to exert himself on the basepads, when he returns to the mound, he is unfocused and tends to struggle.  An increased focus on hitting in the pinch could hurt his overall focus on the mound even if that hitting situation is on a rest day.  Pitchers have rest days for a reason.  It's so they can rest, not just physically, but also mentally.

So I really hope that Mike Quade changes his mind about possibly using Zambrano in a pinch hitting role.  If this team needs Z as a pinch hitter, than there are some other serious problems that really need to be addressed.