March 22, 2009

Project-a-tron: Carlos Zambrano

Zambrano has been my favorite Cubs player for many years. People use lots of adjectives to describe Zambrano, such as "Fiery", "Emotional", "Injury-waiting-to-happen" (thanks for that, Will Carroll), "Angry", and other such names. However, my favorite is "goofy", which I first read in BP's "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" in the chapter on the 2003 Cubs. What better word to describe Carlos? He's a fun-loving guy who loves baseball.

Z has seen his strikeout rate decline for the past 2 seasons. However, this has been tempered by an equal decline in his walk rate, which had always been a problem for Z (especially in 2006, when he had a 4.84 BB/9). Instead, he began to rely more on his groudball tendencies to get his outs. You would think that this would lead to Z going deeper into games, but in fact this number has declined, as he has been hit harder (6.75, 6.35, and 6.27 IP/Start, respectively). I'm no expert, but I don't know if Z is as due for an injury as Will Carroll seems to be. He's been beating the drum on this for years, and only at the end of last season did Z start breaking down. He's certainly been pitching differently than he did in his prime years (lower arm slot), but it still seems to be working for him, though not as well as his prime years. His projection, perhaps not coincedentally, sees him continuing to produce at this new level.