Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Defending the Big Moose

You may have heard recently about Dave Kaplan's attack on Carlos Zambrano, calling him a "piece of garbage" and the most over-paid player in baseball. He's not an ace, Kaplan tells us; he's only averaged 14 wins a year, he hasn't been healthy, the Cubs need to get rid of him.

First of all, this is clearly a work. Kaplan does not have strong feelings about Zambrano, and he certainly doesn't hate him. He does not think that Carlos is a "piece of garbage." What he does have, however, is a blog with a lagging readership and a radio show where ratings are the end-all-be-all. Kaplan is voicing a loud, obnoxious opinion about Carlos Zambrano for one reason -- to drum up readers and listeners. And so far it's worked. He's had more comments in his one anti-Zambrano post than he did in all other posts currently on his home page combined. This, my friends, is the definition of a "work." For examples of that on GROTA, see pretty much any heated inter-rider debate we've ever had, or any ridiculous opinion such as the recent "trade them all" article or "the Cubs will win 110 wins" story. Not that we necessarily plan for it, but we do recognize that drama stirs readership and we don't really try to stifle it per se. Same as Kaplan -- he's been trying to stir the pot for months, and this is his first really successful attempt.

Well, Dave, here's an inside iggy for you: if you really want to drum up a strong response, you should suggest the firing of Lou Piniella. People will go bat-shiz crazy. (And if you see that Kaplan writes an article on that topic in the next few weeks, then you better believe he got the idea here and ran with it ... again, not from his personal opinion on the topic, but because he wants to bang the drum of controversy to draw the marks to his website.)

So, back to the article in question. Here are a handful of the more outrageous things written by Kaplan:

Zambrano is not a big game pitcher, he is not an ace

I used to think that too, until I actually saw him pitch in some big games. Based on how bad he looked in his first playoff appearance in 2003, when Carlos led the way or the '07 team I was nervous. Little did I realize that he'd be the only Cub to keep it together and deliver a solid performance. In 2007, Zambrano pitched 6 innings of 4-hit ball, striking out 8 in the playoffs against the D-Backs. If only Lou had kept him in a little longer. And in '08, despite a couple of innings of woe, in which his defense completely failed him, Zambrano kept his head and allowed only 3 earned runs in just under 7 innings of work while striking out 7 more. Just saying ... of all the pitchers on the Cubs right now, that's the most ace-like and the biggest game.

Zambrano has averaged 14 wins a season since he became a full time starter in 2003

Actually, that's not true. The Moose has averaged 15 wins per full season from 2003 to 2008. Seing as how 2009 isn't over yet and he hasn't won his last game, it would probably be wrong to count his present record. Then again, since 2003, Zambrano has pitched for two teams that lost 90-or-more games, and "wins" might not be the best way to track his success as a pitcher. As Shawn D. Goldman (I assume, anyway) noted, Carlos is the youngest pitcher to win 90 games over the span of the last 7 years, and he rates in the top 3 in numerous categories -- including games started, lowest ERA, strikeouts, AVG against, and SLG against.

In the comments section of his blog, Kaplan writes
Aces are guys like Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Chris Carpenter, Johan Santana, Josh Beckett

There's no question that Halladay is one of the very best pitchers in the game today, but he wants to compare Carlos to the others? Sabathia has had one more 16-game-win season than Carlos (and has also never won 20, an apparent pre-requisit of Kap's). Not to mention CC's higher career ERA and his 7.92 post-season ERA, including his 12.27 ERA in last year's post season for the Brewers.

Hamels has had one 15 win season and presently has as many -- or as few, as Kaplan would note -- wins as Carlos (7) in more starts and a 4.77 ERA this year.

There's no doubt that Carpenter has had some good years, and is in the midst of a very good season, but Kaplan seems to think that Zambrano's problems with injuries is a detriment toward his ace-like status. Between 2006 and 2007 Carpenter started a total of 4 games for the Cardinals.

Santana is without question, like Haladay, one of the very best pitchers in baseball. Then again, he's 1-3 in the playoffs with a 3.97 ERA.

And counting 2009, Josh Beckett has had 3 very good seasons. That would be fine, except he's been pitching since 2001. Were he a Cub, his inconsistent health coupled with his odd-year-good, even-year-bad performance splits would probably be something Kaplan would rail against.

Then again, just the other day on this very website Rob was also saying that Zambrano ain't an ace because he's "too immature" and needs to be managed.

Sorry, Rob, but an ace is the pitcher who, on any given day, gives your team the best chance to win. It's not the nicest guy in the clubhouse, or the most mature guy, or the team leader. It's the guy with the balls-to-the-walls best ability. That's Carlos Zambrano. Could he be better? Sure. And Ryne Sandberg could've been more vocal in the clubhouse. And Rick Sutcliffe could have manned up and had that shoulder surgery a lot sooner than he did (assuming he ever did). And Greg Maddux could've been less silly and more vocal -- and even he weilded a bat in the dugout in '05.

Yes, sorry, Carlos is the ace. I'd trust him every time in a playoff game more than any other pitcher on the Cubs, and I absolutely believe that he's a healthy season away from winning 20 on a good team. To say otherwise, for the most part, is just an attempt to drum up readership and stir up controversy. So, Kaplan -- mission accomplished.


Since the beginning of 2004, Zambrano has started 180 games, and the Cubs have won 62.4 percent of them. I wish every starter was that bad -- the Cubs would win 101 games every year.

Big Z did everything you

Big Z did everything you could possibly ask of him in his playoff starts in '07 and '08--particularly when his defense ABSOLUTELY FAILED HIM OVER AND OVER AND OVER in last year's start. The same cannot be said, by ANY means, for Sabathia, Peavy, and many others.

Z is very much a big game pitcher, as far as I'm concerned.

But you KNOW AJ that if you

But you KNOW AJ that if you took the contrary stance and accused Zambrano of being an overrated suck-ball, our readership would go OFF THE CHARTS!!

Did I say he was awesome? I

Did I say he was awesome? I meant he was poop! Z sucks! RANDY WELLS IS THE CUBS ACE OF THE FYOOTCHER!!!!!

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