Would you believe that for the first time since 2004 Carlos Zambrano’s tRA is under 4.5? Heck, for the first time since 2005 his FIP is under 4. I would heap praise on Zambrano’s improvement and such, but it’s not really to his credit.
Zambrano’s career home run per fly ball rate is 9.1% which falls into the 9-12% range we usually look for in starting pitchers. This year his HR/FB% is 6.5%. Everyone reading this is well aware that 6.5% is less than 9.1%. What happened? Well, he didn’t move to a pitchers park or an inferior league and he didn’t become a groundball maven or reliever, so that means he’s just been on the receiving end of some really good luck and wind gusts on his outfield flies.
His pitch selection has altered little; fewer fastballs per 100 pitches, more cutters in place of sliders, and some extra split-fingered pitches. His stuff gets more groundballs than fly balls which is a positive sign, but generally speaking there’s nothing here to indicate he’s going to continue giving up less than seven home runs per 100 fly balls. That means you should expect regression moving forward which will balloon his tRA and FIP upon its arrival.
He sells himself if the Cubs decide to put him on the block. He’s won 99 games since 2003 (an average of ~14 wins per season), a shiny ERA, and a recognizable name. Zambrano is no longer the stellar pitcher he was from 2003-2006 (although he’s still above average) but he’s not exactly Jeff Suppan either. Factor in his hitting — which seems silly, but his wRAA over the last three years projects him to be a -5 < x < 0 hitter during any given season – as an upgrade over most pitchers and you get a nice package. I wouldn’t recommend dishing out the players and 18.3 million for him through 2013, but I’m sure some team will.
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