June 5, 2012
Carlos Zambrano's Resurgence
It is already bad enough for Cubs fans that they have the second-worst record in all of baseball and are tied with the Padres for the lowest win total in the league. To add salt to the wound, Carlos Zambrano appears to once again be a relevant pitcher.
Fantasy owners were very skeptical of any kind of success for him in 2012. Dean Peterson paid $3 for him in Tout Wars NL. Steve Gardner paid the same price for him in LABR NL, while yours truly made a $2 purchase of him in a 10-team local NL-only league. This was coming off a season in which Zambrano failed to crack the 150-inning mark for a second consecutive season and saw his strikeout rate plunge from 8.1 to 6.2 while his home run rate more than doubled from 0.49 to 1.17.
To date, here is how 2012 compares to 2011:
There has been a slight skills change in that he is throwing more groundballs this season than he has since his best years with the Cubs. His walk rate is identical to last season while his strikeout rate is not that much better. His batting average on balls in play is considerably lower than his career .275 rate and is a career best by 16 points. He is also stranding more runners so far this season, though with a career rate of 74 percent, that could begin to normalize. Despite what was said in the off-season, he is doing this without any increase in velocity.
Before the season started, Zambrano was quoted as saying:
"Last year, I was throwing 91-92 [mph]," he said. "In winter ball, I was throwing the ball 94-95, which is good." The difference is the result of him changing his training regimen. "I've been working out with my personal trainer," he said. "It's helped me out a lot. I feel looser."
Zambrano does indeed look more fit this season than he did in Chicago, but he is still barely throwing 91. The table below shows Zambrano’s pitch mix and the average velocity on those pitches over the past two seasons, according to his BrooksBaseball player card: