Piniella: Zambrano to Bullpen

With Ted Lilly‘s return from the DL imminent, the Cubs had a decision to make. With two lefties already in the bullpen, the Cubs needed to move one of their right handed starters to the bullpen. There had been speculation abounding that Carlos Zambrano could possibly be the odd man out of the rotation, but few actually believed that manager Lou Piniella would expel him from the rotation over obvious choice Carlos Silva.

However, Piniella surprised us all this afternoon, announcing that Carlos Zambrano would indeed be moving to the pen. That leaves the Cubs rotation with Randy Wells, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Tom Gorzelanny, and Carlos Silva.

As I wrote earlier this month, I no longer consider Zambrano to be an elite pitcher. However, he is quite clearly one of the top-five starting pitchers in the Chicago Cubs’ staff. Zambrano’s FIP has typically been in the 4.00-4.50, but a good year last year suppressing the home run ball led to a 3.61 FIP, a 3.6 WAR, and his best season in three years. The projection systems saw Zambrano as a 3.90-4.10 FIP pitcher for 2010, and even despite his slow start, ZiPS’s updated projections expect a 3.80 FIP for the rest of the season.

Carlos Silva, on the other hand, has earned a starting rotation spot solely on the basis of two starts. Silva is 31 and coming off of two terrible seasons with the Mariners. None of the projection systems entering the season projected Silva to be better than a 4.64 FIP starter – above replacement level, but far worse than Zambrano, Dempster, or Wells, the other three right handed starters on the Cubs roster.

Not only that, but a move to the bullpen for Zambrano eliminates his greatest asset – his durability. Last season was the only year since 2003 in which Zambrano didn’t throw 200 innings, and he still made 30 starts and threw 188.2 innings. Zambrano’s been worth at least 2.8 wins per season in that time frame, and that’s in spite of his second-tier peripherals. Simply put, there aren’t many pitchers, regardless of their skill, who can throw that many innings year-in and year-out.

Silva, on the other hand, is fresh off an injury in 2009 and also missed time due to injury in 2008. He threw as many innings in 2008 and 2009 combined as Zambrano did in 2009 alone. Not only that, but even in his two excellent starts as a Cub, Silva’s fastball velocity is still 1.4 MPH lower than it was in his 3.3 WAR 2007 with Minnesota.

Carlos Zambrano is simply a better pitcher than Carlos Silva. Carlos Zambrano is simply a more durable pitcher than Carlos Silva. Instead of getting 180-200 innings out of one of his top pitchers, Lou Piniella is instead opting for about 40 to 50 innings from him and then 100 to 150 out of a pitcher who projected as average at best coming into the season. The Cubs’ chances at the division were low coming into the season. If Piniella’s rash and irrational decision stays in place, they become virtually nil.

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76 Responses to “Piniella: Zambrano to Bullpen”

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  1. Adam Stein says:

    Lou Piniella continues to be the most overrated manager in baseball. His management of a pitching staff is just somewhere between horrid and outright stupid.

    Fortunately, Silva will flame out in a couple more starts and the Carloses will swap spots.

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    • Deelron says:

      Too true, although karma would dictate that Zambrano would immediately get injured, the baseball gods put up with quite a bit, but this sort of hubris is crosses even the Alfonso Soriano line.

      Not much else to do but shake your head sadly and laugh, unless you’re a Cub fan.

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  2. RKO36 says:

    Inexcusable. Pinella and Jim Hendry should be fired.

    Can you guys move the Cubs down to number 28 in the Organizational Rankings?

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    • B N says:

      By far the worst managerial move of the year. While Big Z may be in the doghouse, that is no excuse for replacing him with a guy like Silva who is one start away from a huge implosion that will regress him back to an ERA of about 5.

      Either that, or Pinella seems to think that the 8th inning is more important than the 7 preceding it. Just horrible. It makes my brain hurt.

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  3. SMS_Mike says:

    Hey Lou: Z’s BABIP (.435) and HR% (21.1) are abnormally high. They will regress. Now is not the time to make a panic move that takes the most durable starter on your staff out of the rotation.

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    • Steven says:

      Especially considering that Silva’s BABIP is just as abnormally low. This could get really ugly, really quick.

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  4. WY says:

    I’m sure it’s just a temporary move until someone gets injured and/or Silva starts showing his true colors.

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  5. malacoda says:

    Bwhahaha! Oh man, this is great.

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  6. coastermule85 says:

    Normally, I would fully agree; as a Cubs fan, from what I’ve seen for the first 14 games of the season, I actually support this decision. The Cubs bullpen has been an atrocity so far this season. Assuming Silva returns to his true colors, adding another poor pitcher to an otherwise awful pen isn’t going to change any L’s to W’s. The Cubs have led in 11 of their 14 games this season; is it possible that an arm like Zambrano’s could change multiple of those L’s into W’s? And if Silva doesn’t regress to his previous form, then Silva will truly perform better than Zambrano this season, and the Cubs will be getting more innings out of the better pitcher. Either way, Zambrano has looked totally lost this season, maybe this move will light a fire under him.

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    • SteveP says:

      Eh, I agree that the Cubs pen has been pretty horrible and cost them some games, but I think banking on Silva to maintain this level of performance is extremely optimistic and unlikely to happen. When (pretty much not if) he comes crashing back to earth you’ll have a starter out there every 5th day who can’t even get a lead to the “much improved” pen that Zambrano will provide. Honestly, relievers are relievers for a reason, because they are not one of the five best pitchers on the team. The five best get the starter roles. To take one of the five best and make him a reliever is nonsense. A better gamble would be that Silva’s high level of performance could be sustained longer in a more limited sample by inserting him into the pen. The risk is lesser (if he sucks at least he’ll suck in less innings pitched) and the reward is greater; when Zambrano’s performance turns around and if Silva is able to maintain a decent level of performance you now ensure you have 5 serviceable starters and add another decent arm to the pen. Plus Zambrano’s a psycho, so I’m not sure how he’ll take the news that he’s being “demoted.”

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  7. jimiu says:

    Z’s LD% is 28.6% so I’m not sure that the BABIP and HR% are that inflated as when contact is made it is solid. Interesting that 30% of his 2010 pitches are categorized as ‘Unknown’.

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    • DavidA says:

      Maybe those 30% are “bad” pitches?

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      • SMS_Mike says:

        His career BABIP is .282 in 1570 IP. Last year he finished with a .308 BABIP in 170 IP. This year it’s .435 in 19 innings. He may never get it back down to his career average, but it’s certainly not going to stay where it is now over the whole season.

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      • mbrady16 says:

        I believe most of them are his two-seamer. It traditionally moves quite a bit so that might be the cause. Take a look at his PitchFX data.

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    • Trenchtown2 says:

      His % of pitches also adds up to 130.3% so either he was really listening when his coaches game him that pep talk about giving more then 100%, or fangraphs is broken. Considering 30.3% suck pitches isn’t even top 20 in the game (Kyle Kendrick throwing 51.6/151.6 suck pitches), I would bet on the latter

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  8. Eddie says:

    I hate this team so much. To be a Cubs fan is to self loathe.

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  9. FonteYES says:

    You don’t put your second (at worst 3rd) best starting pitcher in the bullpen. You just don’t do it. You are limiting his innings. Relievers are basically failed starters, all of them, at one point or another.

    This team just pissed away it’s slim playoff chances.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Unless you are Adam Wainwright, and the year is 2006.


      My poor 8yo son is a Cubs fan. I don’t give him crap about it. I figure failure and heartbreak will do the dirty work for me.

      The Cubs are aq classic example of a losing tradition not being bad luck, but continual bad decisions. Lou Pinella as manager was pure marketing ploy to try and garner attention for the team as a means to sell for a higher dollar. Same could be said for the Soriano mega-signing.

      Oh and here we go again with the relievers are the failed starters bullcrap. Chase Utley is such a failed shortstop.

      See how dumb that comment is.

      Relievers are often very successful because they have a different type of endurance/durability, a dominant pitch instead of 3 very good ones, and/or a delivery or release point that makes it very difficult for same-handed hitters to be successful.

      Pit bulls and greyhounds are different animals for different purposes. So are starting pitchers and relievers. Accept it.

      I do acknowledge that long/middle relievers often are in the “noty good enough to start, not good enough to close” type of scenario. But setup men and closers are very much late game specialist with certain characteristics such as intensity, high velocity, dominant pitch that moves, all in intenisty in short bursts.

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  10. dylanj says:

    Fuck this organization. No wonder we never ever ever win.

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  11. Norm says:

    Wow. From Lou:
    “This makes all the sense in the world and I appreciate Carlos doing this. It gives us some power at the end of the ballgame. With Zambrano and Marmol, it gives us some firepower.”

    All the sense in the world.

    Lou has lost his marbles. And anyone who thinks this is a good move is as ignorant as Lou.

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  12. JoelQ says:

    I’m a die hard Cubs fan. This move is the stupidest thing Lou Pinella has ever done, and he makes bad decisions on a daily basis.

    Before I was just content to wait out his contract. Now I want him fired.

    The bullpen isn’t the entire problem. Lou is putting the wrong people in at the wrong times and not getting good matchups. Not that the bullpen is great, but it could be better just from better management.

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    • JoeIQ says:

      A 12K/9 season tragically cut short. Not too mention FB rate is at a low. MOre LD than ground balls but that’s just flukey sample size. Most of these liners are bloops off the end of the bat or broken bat flares.

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  13. 81 says:

    Remember in game one of the NLDS in 2008 when the Cubs were only down two runs in the 7th and Lou decided to leave in Sean Marshall (a young, soft-tossing LHP) to face Manny (in the conversation for most feared RH hitter of the decade) in the definition of a mismatch which predictably ended in a home run?

    This is like that but on a much larger scale, ergo it’s considerably worse.

    While the only thing as annoying than a starry-eyed, hopelessly optimistic Cubs fan is an hyper-reactive, excessively critical Cubs fan–a decision like this does make it difficult for anyone of a sound baseball mind to root for an organization.

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  14. Jack says:


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  15. Anon says:

    This doesn’t even touch on Zambrano’s other huge asset as a starter – his bat. Pitcher hitting isn’t worth a ton (well, except Micah Owings) but over the course of a full season, a bat like Zambrano’s is worth about 0.50 runs of ERA over a poor hitting pitcher.

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  16. Yoloslim says:

    No mention of the at bats Zambrano loses? This makes it an even worse move!

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  17. poodski says:

    Silva should stay in the rotation, but Gorzelanny should have been the one expelled.

    Silva is finally healthy again which he never was in 09, and he isn’t playing in front of a defense that is going to allow his ERA to be 2 runs above his FIP like in 2008.

    Moving Zambrano to the pen is pretty dumb, but Silva should be in the rotation.

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    • Paul B says:

      I think you’ll re-evaluate your thoughts in a week or two.

      Silva’s BABIP is .218.

      Freakishly, he has yet to allow a homer.

      But, his GB% is actually lower than any year ever.

      This is what an upcoming regression to the mean smells like.

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      • poodski says:

        Even so his xFIP is only sitting at just a touch over 4. He has been pitching well the changeup looks amazing right now. Its nearly unhittable thus far. He isn’t going to sustain an ERA below one, but there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to keep it around 4. Going to the NL is going to help him and pitching in front of a plus defense is going to help him as well.

        The thing about the projections I dont get is why the giant difference in FIP and ERA? For his career the difference is only .12. Is it because of the Mariners terrible defense in 08 or because of the tiny sample size in 09? I keep trying to figure that one out. Especially since for the most part his ERA has been better than his FIP in his career.

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  18. Eric K says:

    Those stats cited about last year being the first year since 2003 he didn’t throw 200 innings aren’t correct. Those are his 2008 stats you cite, and in 2009 he pitched only 169 1/3 innings.

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  19. B N says:

    Replacing a guy with a good track record and an xFIP of 3.37 with a guy who has been awful for two years and has an xFIP of 3.38! Brilliant!

    I always like when I have two guys who pitch comparably to stick by the one who’s gotten luckier over the last 3 starts, rather than looking at the last 3 years of performance.

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  20. JackWeiland says:

    There are so many assumptions in this piece it’s a joke.

    1. “A good year supressing the HR ball” – Big Z had a CAREER LOW hr/fb last year. His rate last year was about half what it was in the preceeding years. That’s unsustainable, and those FIP projections are misguided as a result.

    2. Just asking, why are we using FIP here instead of xFIP? Isn’t xFIP more accepted these days? It makes a huge difference in how you view this move. Zambrano has had xFIPs of 4.27, 4.45, 4.62 and 4.20 the past four seasons. Silva has had xFIPs of 5.53, 4.64, 4.57 and 4.81. Is Silva as good as Zambrano? No effing way dude. But is Silva as bad as he’s assumed to be? No. Not at all. Is Zambrano as good as people assume he is? Nope.

    3. Big Zs workhorse IP numbers – This assumes that Big Z can continue throwing 200 IP a year at the same level of effectiveness. The fact that he threw a career low 188 IP in 2008 and then ANOTHER career low IP of 169 last year (as someone already corrected you) makes this assumption pretty questionable. Not to mention you (the author) and I (the Cubs fan) aren’t in as good a position to judge Zs phsyical health as, like, the team and their doctors. Granted they haven’t had a sterling track record of this haha. Silva was hurt last year, but in his last full season he started 28 games. The reason he didn’t throw 200 innings is because he was getting shellacked, and 2 runs worth of his 6+ ERA was due to the atrocious fielding behind a groundball pitcher. There’s absolutely no reason to think Silva is injured now, and if he continues to get good defense behind him there’s no reason to think he can’t put up closer to 200 IP.

    4. Fastball velocity – This is a joke, right? 1.4 mph over two starts? As if FB velocity was the end all be all to begin with?

    5. 40-50 IP from Zambrano – He’s a completely stretched out starting pitcher going to the bullpen, and you assume they’re only going to give him 40 or 50 innings?

    Here’s how I feel: the question is which combo benefits the Cubs more: Zambrano starting and Silva relieving or Zambrano relieving and Silva starting. Silva is going to be Silva wherever he pitches. But could Z’s effectiveness improve with a decreased workload? Is that possible? Is it possible that Z is overrated and Silva is underrated? Is it possible that the rotation won’t get much worse than the bullpen will be better with Z in it? And a possibly more effective Z? The rotation is guaranteed to get worse here. The bullpen is guaranteed to get better. The rotation is a strength, the bullpen is a weakness. It could work. Maybe. And if there’s a chance it might work, why not try it? Anyone who thinks this Cubs team has a chance at the playoffs as it is constituted right now is dreaming. Worst comes to worst Silva flames out and you move Z back to the rotation. Best case you’ve got a similar rotation (which has been a strength) and a MUCH improved bullpen in the high leverage innings that they frankly don’t have people to throw in. They’ve got at least 4 arms right now who should be in AAA. It’s a ballsy, bold and unconventional solution to that problem, and that I applaud. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out, but at least they’re trying SOMETHING. Muddling through a 70-80 win season and pretending everything is okay wasn’t the solution either was it??

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    • John says:

      Some of the most original thought on this entire thread — including the author’s post.

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    • poodski says:

      This is one of the most interesting takes on this I have read yet. Very good read.

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    • johng says:

      Great post.

      I await Dave Cameron whining that you don’t reflexively agree with the blogger.

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    • FonteYES says:

      Actually let me reply to the xFIP thing. Unlike FIP, it’s not a just a rate based account of pitcher controlled events, it normalizes the HR rate to remove luck. While it might indicate that a player is the beneficiary or being harmed by luck, FIP is still used in WAR calculations for a reason.

      I agree that he isn’t as good as he was before, but you also have to factor in that he will usually pitch more innings than other starters and also taking his bat out of the lineup (which was projected to be worth .8 wins this season).

      xFIP is not the be all, end all. Neither is FIP. Looking at it in a wholistic sense it is clear that Z gives more value than Silva in the starting rotation. Z’s durability, his bat, and his superior peripherals make him better than Silva. Z’s rate stats might improve in the bullpen, but that’s the case with every pitcher (They only have to face a lineup once (at most) and can go all out for 1 or 2 inning) and Silva would likely produce better results in the bullpen then as a starter as well. The point is that it is stupid to remove somewhere between 60-100 innings from a superior player and give those innings to a lesser player.

      Despite his recent down turn, Zambrano was still projected to be the second best starter on that staff and removing him from the rotation is a terrible idea.

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      • FonteYES says:

        I need to patch up my first paragraph I just kind of wrote something.

        What I meant to say is that his xFIP is a good indicator of the decline of his skills, but xFIP also is assumptive. It doesn’t represent reality of value, because while everything will tend towards 10% HR/FB rate obviously not every pitcher does. It’s a good way to normalize luck and it’s a better representation of a pitcher’s ability, but while FIP is less accurate in terms of what the pitcher controls, it is still the metric for value.

        That was my only point about xFIP. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Z. As you pointed out Z’s recent xFIP is better than Silva’s anyways.

        My more important one was the later one. It’s not just his pitching ability, but the fact that he generally has pitched more innings than most other starters and much more than an injury prone Silva. Silva also doesn’t have the bat (which cannot be ignored) that Z does. It’s an asset he brings.

        Combine that he has better peripherals (even if you want to say minimally, which I disagree with) means this is clearly the right option.

        Just because the Cubs didn’t have a good chance to make the playoffs before this move and just because they didn’t put together a really good team doesn’t make this move justified. You are happy that the Cubs are trying SOMETHING!! How bout making the right move? And keeping a Demp, Z, Lilly, Wells, Gorz rotation instead of something stupid like they are doing now is the right move. This makes it even less likely they make the playoffs.

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      • John says:

        I don’t think anyone is saying Silva is a better starter than Zambrano, just that the difference between the two is greatly exaggerated. I find it interesting that a weighted average of Zambrano’s xFIP over the last 3 years is 4.47, the same as Silva’s career average. If Silva can approach his career averages, this isn’t such a huge downgrade in the rotation that it seems at first glance.

        And while trends will tell you that Silva may indeed perform out of the bullpen, Zambrano has a chance to be a difference maker. Maybe he can even dust off the old 4 seamer and let it loose for an inning or two. What the Cubs don’t have in the bullpen (except for Marmol) is a power pitcher who can beat hitters without having to out think theam and pitch to contact. Zambrano has the potential to fill that void. Silva does not.

        So the real question isn’t whether Zambrano is a better starter than Silva. We all know he is. The real question is this: Can Zambrano upgrade the Cubs bullpen more than Silva downgrades the rotation? I think so. And if that is the case, then the Cubs are better off overall, and isn’t that the whole point?

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      • jackweiland says:

        FIP is still used in WAR calculations for a reason – This doesn’t mean it’s the right reason. And even so I have a really hard time believing Z is going to maintain a career low hr/fb rate. Really, I just don’t buy that.

        You make a great point about his bat. Using him as a multi-inning reliever a couple times a week it’s certainly possible he can get about as many at bats as he would have starting once a week, no?

        I get that neither is the end all be all, but I think xFIP is much more representational of what you can expect based on what the pitcher does outside of the rest of his environment. And the fact is Silva is about .4-.5 worse in xFIP, which translates to … what, 12 runs? So 1.2 wins? If Z goes into the pen and takes Grabow’s job as the setup guy, I think Z certainly would be at worst a 1 win pitcher, and possibly more. If he’s a two win pitcher in the pen, and Silva is only 1 win worse as a starter … boom. You’ve just squeezed out another win to put in your bottom line. Is it likely? I don’t know, probably not. But I have a really hard time saying it’s not possible. I think it is possible, and legitimately so.

        I’m not happy they’re doing something just to do something. Let me clarify that. I’m happy they’re taking a team with slim playoff hopes and doing something that’s risky but might ultimately benefit them, as crazy as it seems. They’re in a position where they have gotta take risks, the team just is not good enough as is. A 4.50 xFIP reliever (which Silva would be) isn’t anywhere close to as valuable as a 4.50 xFIP starter, where they can get by with him. If Z goes to the pen and increases his effectiveness with a lighter workload, it works out. I think it all comes down to that. The Cubs probably think less Z will result in better Z, and that Silva has unfairly been slammed with a reputation that is due way more to luck than people want to admit. I’m inclined to say … go for it. Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, toss Z back in the rotation. If Silva gets hurt, guess what? Z goes back in the rotation. There’s really not a lot to lose for the Cubs here, and I think they CAN squeeze a win out of this. It’s possible. And if it’s possible, do it.

        What’s the other solution? Trading prospects for a reliever? Bringing up more out of place kids from the farm? No thanks.

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      • jackweiland says:

        Also, to what John said … ‘zactly. That’s what I am sayin.

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      • jackweiland says:

        Also also also … I am not done. No way, no how. Hahha.

        The Cubs have reportedly told Z this is a solution until they can acquire bullpen help (please god do not trade a single prospect of any value). If that’s true, can anyone deny that lightening Zs innings in the regular season a little wouldn’t benefit him? Does anyone disagree that he’s had a really high workload from 2003-2010? Don’t you think taking it a little easy on him this year might increase what you get out of him. Z is way more important to this team. He is good at pitching (unlike Silva). If you can get the most out of him, however you accomplish that, why not do it?

        I don’t think trotting him out for another 200 IP is the answer. The Cubs don’t either. I’m alright with them on this.

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    • joser says:

      There’s a lot worth pondering in your post. Unfortunately you undercut it completely by prefacing it with “There are so many assumptions in this piece it’s a joke.”

      We have a much better conversation when the participants treat one another with respect. Without that, well, I find myself dismissing your work as “a joke” as well.

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      • JackWeiland says:

        Pssh. Please. I’m an everyday reader of this web site. I’m allowed to voice my displeasure when I feel an extremely poor effort has been made. If it were one or two things with this article that I found disagreeable I would be more inclined to give the guy a pass. But he makes assumptions from start to finish and backs them up pretty weakly. This story is EXACTLY the kind of stuff I come here to avoid.

        If you missed the valid points of my post because of one aspect of it that’s really your loss. The fact is you A) still read what I had to say and B) What I wrote started an interesting discussion of this situation whereas before the comments here were mostly stuff like this: “Lolz, what an idiot! Omg the Cubs are so bad.”

        PS – I used to be in sports media. If someone wrote in to complain and had as detailed a criticism as I wrote I would have loved it. If this kid takes what I wrote about his article, internalizes it and learns from it he can really benefit. If you’re going to write for a site as big and mainstream as Fangraphs, though, you gotta expect to be called out when you toss a dud. That’s how it goes.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      1. “A good year supressing the HR ball” – Big Z had a CAREER LOW hr/fb last year. His rate last year was about half what it was in the preceeding years. That’s unsustainable, and those FIP projections are misguided as a result.

      I was under the impression that his HR % was lower because he was throwing more pitches with late break (cutter, for example) than just straight fastballs.

      If that is the case, then the lowish HR rate could be sustainable (perhapos not exact), just as Joel Pineiro’s pounding the zone with the newly discovered sinker, resulting in high GB rates, is sustainable.

      When you can pound the strikezone with something with late, sharp, deceptive movement, you can influence lighter contact. That’s one of the keys to pitching … it’s also why we see asliders and cutters beginning to replace the big slow, frisbee curve of the past.

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      • jackweiland says:

        Very interesting. I’m not sure I 100% buy it, but it’s an interesting point to throw in the mix here, definitely.

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  21. fenwik says:

    Can we have Dusty back now? Please?

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  22. Pat says:

    Do you guys actually think this will last a long time? Not really that big of a deal. He just wants to play the hot hand right now with Silva and Gorzo, and who can blame him when they are pitching well. Silva will regress, we all know that, and when he does, they can slide Z back in. Maybe this will be a little bit of a motivational tactic to get him to pitch better.

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    • verd14 says:


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    • Aaron B. says:

      Do you think playing the “hot hand” when that hot hand is a tub of lard who’s been ineffective, out of shape, and injured the past two seasons is a good idea? What if Pinella doesn’t pull the plug until August or something, trying to let Silva “bounce back” ?

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  23. Chris says:

    wouldn’t have been easier to promote jeff stevens instead?

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  24. Andrew says:

    Shouldn’t this have been entirely Hendry’s decision, not Pinella’s? If Pinenlla did decide this the organization is totally screwed.

    Hopefully this just lasts like two weeks and Zambrano gains RP eligibility.

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    • jackweiland says:

      We don’t know who made the decision and we probably never will. That’s the Cubs business, honestly, and it’s another example of the assumptions being made here. I have a hard time believing Pinella would have made such a bold move under new ownership and a GM hanging by a thread without getting their signoff as well.

      Does it really matter, though? Honestly? What does it change, who made the call?

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  25. Perkins says:

    Way to give your opening day starter for the last 6 seasons a slap in the face before April is even finished, Cubs. Even though I doubt it will last more than a few weeks, I imagine this won’t sit well with Zambrano for the remainder of his tenure with the Cubs. Every time I think this franchise can’t get dumber, it sets a new low.

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  26. malacoda says:

    Across the world, Gatorade coolers tremble in fear. Who knew that Big Z was short for Big Zero ip? Me.

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  27. Norm says:

    Silva is NOT underrated.

    You gotta know when to walk away from the hot streak at the craps table. Lou decided to take a seat and let it ride. You always lose when you let it ride!

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    • jackweiland says:

      Really? I don’t see how that’s even possible given the low opinion EVERYONE seems to have of him.

      He had ERAs a full two run-worse than his xFIPs in his Seattle years. People judge him based on the ERA as the consensus worst starter in baseall. The FACT, however, is in 2008 (I’m throwing out his injured, 6-start 2009 as a sample size not worth looking at too much) he was 81st out of 108 SP with >140 IP with a 4.64 FIP. He was just behind Zach Duke and Jon Garland, and just ahead of guys like Joe Blanton, Dice K and Verlander. Is that where you would “rate him”? In 2007 he was 65 of 142 pitchers to toss at least a hundred innings. Is that where you would put him?

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      • Dann M. says:

        Wow. I thought I was the only person who actually bothered to look at Silva’s stats rather than jump on the “He’s fat and he sucks” bandwagon. I agree that his 2009 stats are worth no consideration. The definition, medically, of shoulder impingement tells us why: reduced range of motion, reduced strength, increasing pain; slow onset.

        But his 2008 stats are misleading, too. He was absolutely shellacked in 5 total starts against the Yanks and Tigers. Something like 34 runs in 19 innings. 2.732 WHIP, .467 BABIP…literally, about as terrible as you could get this side of Dennis Tankersley. The team was 0-5 in those starts and outscored 47-24.

        But then look at the other 23 starts he made in 2008. 1.441 WHIP, .321 BABIP and .307 overall BAA. The team went 9-14 in those outings and were outscored 103-101. He was hardly good. But his raw ERA in those 23 games (including plenty of other poor performances) was 5.21, compared to the 6.46 overall ERA that made people cringe.

        People forget that Miguel Batista was on that team, too. So was Jarrod Washburn. And they both sucked hard, regressing heavily from quite good 2007 seasons. The Mariners had gone 19-13 in Batista’s ’07 starts; he put together a 4.31 ERA on a .276 BAA. Washburn, likewise, had a 4.32 ERA in ’07 with a .268 BAA and a team 15-16 record in his starts. Hmmm…And then, in 2008, they put up the numbers that should be expected of them:
        Batista in a starting role in 2008: team rec. 7-13; 6.70 ERA; 1.960 WHIP; .316 BAA; .410 on base-against…you get the idea;
        Washburn in a starting role: 1.477 WHIP, still a .290 BAA, .349 on base against, 4.75 ERA, 7-19 team record.

        The team even had a losing record (15-16) for King Felix in 2008. And Silva, to make matters even more ironic, was signed to replace Jeff Weaver, who himself had gone 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA and 1.534 WHIP in 2007.

        Now, I’ve gone all this way using the old-timey, out of date raw stats instead of the advanced ones. Why? Because this is open-and-shut stuff. Silva was part of a very bad team. He pitched poorly, just like his teammates. And, even though his GB rate was lower than usual, it never helps to have a combined -15 RngR between your starting middle infielders. And half a season of Sexson at 1st. And Raul Ibanez chasing ‘em down in left. And an offense that went quiet for a year. Put a bad pitcher on a good team, and they’ll make him mediocre. Put a mediocre pitcher on a bad team, and he’ll be bad.

        I don’t expect Silva to last at these Halladian statistical levels. But a season where he pitches well enough to give his team a chance to go >.500 in his starts. And again, I go based on real-world numbers as opposed to models. Silva is a decent 4th/5th starter in the National League, as is Tom Gorzelanny.

        And to be honest, my guess with Zambrano is that Lou made the decision with Rothschild, gave Hendry a call to tell him (not ask), and then told Zambrano/asked him in such a way that it wasn’t a question. It was either going to be Dempster or Zambrano going because those are the only two with the K rates and stuff to be 1-inning guys. Dempster has been more reliable in a starting role.

        As a baseball move, Zambrano to the bullpen makes sense for a short period of time. If it were to last a whole season, one would have to figure out how bad the pen without Z was. See if Z’s pen performance outweighed the marginal difference between his expected starting performance and the actual starting performance of the Cubs worst statistical starter. If he would’ve projected to give .33 IP more per start than Gorzelanny, for instance, and projected to an RAR value of 1 run per start compared to an actual of 0.8 from Gorzelanny; then we’d have to see if that 0.2 run and 1/3 inning per start (5.6 RAR and 9.33 innings over 28 starts) provided a greater difference than whatever similar calculations can be done between Zambrano’s bullpen performance and the sum total of suck the non-Marmol righties were excreting in the pen.

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  28. oxygen8 says:

    you can have cito.

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  29. BA Baracus says:

    Something must have happened behind the scenes that we dont know about. I think Lou is teaching Mr. Zambrano to have some respect for the chair. While Sweet Lou is crazy I dont think he is that crazy.

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  30. Llewdor says:

    But imagine how fat Carlos Silva would get sitting in the bullpen.

    He needs to start to burn off those trips to In-n-Out Burger.

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  31. Greg H says:

    Sure, the numbers don’t support this move. But I like it – give it a try – see what happens. Silva had another very good outing last night. Maybe he is turning his career around? I know – ‘another Cub fan optimist’. What’s the harm for trying thing for a couple weeks.

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    • jackweiland says:

      I think the numbers support it more than a lot of people might think at first blush (as I have said in various ways above) but I keep coming back to this as well.

      What do the Cubs have to lose by trying this? Almost nothing, really. If Silva craps the bed, they reverse course and put Z back in the rotation. If Silva gets hurt (since people seem really concerned about that) they put Z back in the rotation. If they trade Soriano for a sick, late inning reliever (hahah dreamin here) they put Z back in the rotation.

      This isn’t a permanent decision. Can’t pretend like it is.

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  32. JackWeiland says:

    Anyone ready to man up and eat a little crow here? Or should we give it a little more time …?

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