Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Carlos Zambrano

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2009 Player Previews - Carlos Zambrano

Zambrano Player PreviewNote: It's only fitting that Carlos have the most quick links of any Cub written about so far this year.  Because of the multitude, I'm moving them to the bottom of this post.  Actually I might move all quick links to the bottom from here on out ... In fact, feel free to give me your feedback on where the Quick Links should go or if you even want us to continue supplying them

Carlos Zambrano is so tough that the kind of Kryptonite powerful enough to immediately kill Superman is typically called "Carlos Zambrano."

What Carlos isn't, however, is consistent.  At least not last fall.  Between bouts with injury and inconsistency he may have tossed a no-hitter, but Lou had such doubts about Zambrano's ability to git'er done that he actually turned to a Cannuck to throw the first game of a playoff series last October.  Carlos has had tendinitis.  He's had cortisone shots.  Multiple MRI's.  What he hasn't had is arm surgery and the doctors keep telling us that his shoulder is clean and strong, although those same doctors were previously seen standing on the rooftops of Bagdad telling the world that the American infidels were surrendering at the gates.  So what is Carlos's problem?

Carlos Zambrano is so tough that the Rambo movies were actually based on his adventures as a boy in the Venezuelan jungles.

His problem seems to be mechanics.  Now I'm no doctor (although I play one on the subway during emergencies) but Carlos has the tendency to use his upper body more than he uses his legs.  When he throws - rather than pitches - his velocity dips and he gets his ass handed to him.  This is also probably why his arm gets sore.  When Carlos has buckled down and actually listened to his coaches, he's gotten his velocity back up and has succeeded in being effective.  But when his mechanics have been screwy he's gotten lit up, he's lost his cool, and he's missed time with inflamation. 

Carlos Zambrano is so tough that he has regularly spoken out against Vladamir Putin in the Russian media and yet Carlos still lives.

So, what happens now?  Carlos is in only the second year of a massive contract extension.  History has shown us that the modern pitcher who signs huge deals tends to spend most of them wearing casts on their arms.  Carlos has shown signs that he won't make it through the contract healthy.  He may not even make it through 2009.  After watching him last August and September, it's possible that surgery is inevitable.  With the long history of bad luck the Cubs have had with their starters, it seems certain that their misfortune will continue with Carlos.  Doom, gloom, etc.  Have I mentioned that I'm not worried?  Do you know why?

Because Carlos Zambrano is so tough that he would pitch with a knife sticking out of his shoulder if he had to.

He's not invincible, though.  We've learned that.  But if anybody is willing to pitch through pain, it's Carlos Zambrano.  And if he can continue to develop that brain of his, to follow the instructions of Lou and Larry, to use his legs when he trys to burn fastballs past opposing hitters, then I believe Carlos will be just fine.  Maybe he won't be a Cy Young Winner, ever.  Then again, maybe this is the year where he finally puts it all together and wins more than 20.  With the offense behind him, if he can put past the durability problems that plagued him last year, then this just might be his year.  And more importantly, he remains the best Big Game Pitcher the Cubs have.  Hopefully Lou won't forget that, no matter what happens this September.

Quick Links
A First Hand View of the No Hitter (featuring pictures by DB)
Shutterbug Frenzy (featuring more pictures of the no-no by DB)
My Big Z no-hit experience (by Goat Reader dberryhill9)
2008 Season Recap: Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano - Still the Zambino
Carlos Zambrano is a friggin' beast!

Carlos Zambrano is a friggin' Beast

Citizen Z dialing long distance yesterday Sure, he hit a homer and a double yesterday, both of the non-cheap, boldly struck, bat-crackin' variety.  We've seen this monster crack the shiznit out of the ball before.  It pained me that it passed noon here in the Great Midwest and none of us had made notice of Citizen Z's feats yet. Kurt is probably gamely suffering from carpal tendinitis for all the typing he provided on here this past weekend, so that's his excuse.  But it's expected, I guess. We've seen it before. We all know Zambrano is a modern-day Babe Ruth.

But he's not.  (That would be Micah Owings, I think).  The main reason he is not Babe Ruth is that Ruth wasn't worth dick hitting right-handed.  And, until this morning, neither was Big Z, or so I thought.  I'm here to tell you that I am wrong.  Because, as you can see, yesterday, Z split them taters right handed against Mr. Randy Wolf.

This is where perception and lack of attention to the statistics can hurt you.  It seemed to me that all of Z's hitting damage was done from the left side of the box.  I figured that his batting right-handed against lefties was an affectation - I didn't remember him doing much right-handed.  Granted, he doesn't do it as often, due to the preponderance of right-handed pitchers, but I could only remember one good right-handed shot he hit before yesterday, and wondered out loud to people - he is obviously a right-handed person, so shouldn't he be a stronger right-handed hitter?

In his career, he has 531 plate appearences, 147 as a right-handed hitter.  He has sixteen homers, SIX as a right-handed hitter!  He has a .275 average with a .458 slugging percentage as a right-handed hitter, compared to .226/.361 from the left.  As a left-handed hitter, he has a tOPS+ of 87, outstanding for a pitcher, but honestly, weak for a legitimate pinch hitter or DH.  Right-handed, tOPS+ is 135.  Even in only 147 plate appearences, that's getting it DONE, mister man.

This is the kind of frivolous analysis you come to GROTA for, kids.  Since our primary power-hitting PH (the Great Hoff) is left-handed, I propose to dear old Uncle Lou that Scarlos, Che Zambrano himself, become our first-choice pinch hitter VS. left-handed pitching. 

Against right-handed pitching, meh.  Only in an extra-inning game. 

Ted Lilly, Team USA's secret weapon

While I was thinking about addressing an article in The Bright One concerning Big Z being a White Sox supporter, I decided that brand of divisive "journalism" doesn't deserve any play on this site.

Instead, I thought this snippet from a SI article about the WBC was worth mentioning. Apparently, Team USA manager Davey Johnson was thinking about putting Ted Lilly into leftfield in the team's most recent game against the Netherlands. (Haven't the Dutch already done enough damage to the Cubs?)

Let's ignore the potential for injury and outrage at this thought and instead think about the consequences had Lilly actually made his way into the outfield for a half inning. Zambrano might have actually exploded and beaten Lilly/Uncle Lou/Davey Johnson into a pile of bloody goo.

Last season, Zambrano was lobbying for playing time as a position player by roaming the outfield during batting practice. He even threw the balls back to the infield using his left hand as not to hurt his pitching shoulder. Of course Lou shot down the idea and we all had a good laugh about it.

But imagine if Lilly returned from the WBC and walked up to Zambrano with a cocky smirk on his face and whispered softly in Big Z's ear "Totally worth it." Holy crap, that would be amazing.

Anyway, no news here. I just thought it was funny.

WBC = Pitchers playing the outfield...What a great idea, right?

Quick factoids for 3/16/2009

Major league leader in Spring Training total bases: Mike Fontenot: 32

Major league leader in Spring Training RBI (tie): Micah Hoffpauir: 13

Cubs leaders in batting average (tie): Carlos Zambrano&Ryan Dempster: 1.000

In regards to Kyle's review of Alf Soriano - c'mon, kids.  We can all agree that Hoppy is being PAID to be a 40/40 guy, and we can all HOPE he will be a 40/40 guy, and we can see that he APPEARS to be in decent shape, perhaps the best he has been as a Cub.  But that doesn't mean he WILL be a 40/40 guy.  I mean, I can squint my eyes reeeeeal tightly closed and cross my fingers and hope and pray and chant incantations, and I can pray not only that Soriano will go 40/40 but also for Lee to regain his 2005 form, and for Fukudome to be the guy we paid for coming out of Japan, and for Zambrano to win 20 with 2 no-hitters.

Don't mean it's gonna happen, and in fact, you could go to Vegas and get pretty long odds on ALL of those.

Big Z gets the nod

Well my (weak and feeble) push to stump for Ted Lilly as the Opening Day starter ended in the burning inferno of a Zambrano fastball today.

Lou decided to go with Z against the Astros on April 6 in Houston. This will be Zambrano's fifth consecutive Opening Day fart...I mean start.

It crushes my soul even more to know that Lilly wasn't one of the finalists for the first game nod as Ryan Dempster was the runner up. How many more people do you have to kill before you get the respect you deserve Ted?

As we all know, Zambrano has been a fairly poor performer on Opening Day - I'm too lazy to look up the stats right now so deal with it - but I guess he is the symbolic "ace" of the staff.

Hopefully Big Z will be able to buck the trend of craptacular performances, but I'm not expecting anything too drastic. I just don't want the pressure to do any more damage to his psyche.

I'd like to think Zambrano has a limited number of traumatic losses he can sustain before he actually murders someone, so here's to hoping the Astros forget their bats on April 6. Stay tuned.

Carlos Zambrano - still the Zambino

The Zambnio
There's a light-hearted Spring Training article in which Carlos Zambrano jokes about wanting to quit pitching to make it as a hitter.  This same idea was briefly visited a few months ago, when the Big Moose spoke of how he is ambidextrous and would be willing to throw lefty while playing the field between starts. 

It would actually be one of the coolest, most ridiculous stories in baseball were it to ever happen -- but it won't happen because the Cubs are too good.  Maybe if they were a last place team with a disinterested fanbase they could experiment with Carlos Zambrano playing left field and batting 6th or something.  The thing is, he just might be good enough to make it work. 

Over the course of his career, Zambrano has had 494 at bats.  He's only batting .239 in that time frame, but he's got 19 doubles, 3 triples, 16 homeruns, and 47 RBI.  Not bad for a guy who tends to only see pitches once every four or five days, who also had a very long hits and RBI streak in 2008.  If Zambrano ever managed to get the chance to hit regularly, it's probably safe to say that his AVG would go up but the question is if he'd be a little more patient at the plate.  Carlos has only ever drawn 5 walks in his career, a Dunston-like figure. 

Regardless, you can tell it's a long, slow Sunday when we seriously talk about Zambrano the Hitter, but I have to admit he is a lot of fun to watch.  I think if I wind up with another Cubs jersey -- which is probably unlikely to happen for a year or two -- it'll have to be one of the Big Moose. 

2008 Season Recap: Carlos Zambrano

Carlos Zambrano

He is perhaps the most concerning player on the team.  At the age of 27, Carlos Zambrano has now logged 1,382 innings of work - and he's averaged 211 a year since he became a full-time starter for the Cubs in 2003 at the age of 22.  He consistently throws 100+ pitches a game.  He signed a massive contract extension late in the 2007 season, guaranteeing him $91.5 million for 5 seasons.  He spent the first year of that contract battling bizarre maladies, he threw a no-hitter in early September, and he's the craziest, fiercest Cubs pitcher I've ever seen.


It's hard to say if the 2008 season was a success for The Big Moose.  Yes, he won 14 games to only 6 losses.  Yes, he cut down on walks, from 101 last season to 72 in '08.  Yes, he reduced his ERA from 3.95 to 3.91.  But on the negatory side, Zambrano threw the fewest innings since he became a starter - 188.2 in 30 starts.  He left more than one game early due to arm bizarreness, he was diagnosed with having rotator cuff tendinitis, and he only struck out 130 guys - down from 170 in 2007 and 210 in 2006.

Basically, the question has to be not if Carlos will eventually lose a lot of time due to arm problems, but when.  His shoulder and elbow seem to be ticking time bombs and we have seen games where Zambrano battled through seriously decreased velocity, although there seems to be some argument that his problems may mostly be mechanical. But just ask Kerry Wood - if your mechanics are bad enough for long enough, sooner or later, your body will fall apart.

Don't get me wrong.  I remain a tremendous Zambrano fan, and as I have joked for a very long time, Carlos may never suffer from a serious arm injury because his shoulder and elbow might be too afraid of him to get hurt.  More to the point, the Moose is one player who will not hesitate to pitch hurt, and I believe that he could have a knife sticking out of his right forearm and he'd still go out there and work 5 innings if he had to.  Carlos Zambrano is just that tough.

Carlos Zambrano

All told, the biggest problem with Carlos's season was that, when the wheels came off in August and September - two of his worst months ever - Lou* came to the conclusion that he wasn't reliable enough to start Game One of the NLDS.  Consequently, the Cubs turned to Ryan Dempster who pitched with his balls shriveled up into his cavity against the Dodgers.  When Zambrano pitched the following night, it was already too late, and he gave a good-but-not-good-enough performance.  Had he pitched that effectively in Game One, then the Cubs very well might have seized the momentum.  (But probably not.)

(*Okay, fine, I sided with Lou on the decision, as did probably almost all of us)

One thing we cannot criticize, however, was his hitting in '08.  Carlos has been a fantastic hitter throughouth is career - at least, for a pitcher - and he really rose the bar this past season.  In 83 at bats, the Moose batted .337 with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 14 RBI, and an OPS of .891.  In other words, he was perhaps the best pinch hitter on the team when not pitching.  He had hitting and RBI streaks that went into the double digits, something most regular hitters fail to accomplish.  Oh, and in his career, the Moose now has 16 homeruns and 47 RBI in 494 at bats.  It's easy to imagine that, as an every day hitter, Carlos might actually be able to carry his weight in the batter's box.


I don't know what the future will bring for Zambrano.  Perhaps it will be a healthy 2009, perhaps not.  But he has been the cornerstone of the Chicago Cubs starting rotation for six years now, and he's still a few seasons from turning 30.  Maybe he's as tough as we think he is, and maybe he'll get over the tendinitis and other various arm ailments that have impeded his path to Cy Young Glory.  Or maybe the 1,200+ innings of work in 6 seasons will finally take their toll.  But ultimately, the 2008 season was a successful one for Zambrano, although I can't help but believe that, had he stayed healthy, the Cubs would have won 100 and perhaps they would have won even more than that.

Che Zambrano

My outlook entering tonight.

Game 1 hurt. The innocence of this team has been completely demolished. Looking down from afar, they look the same as all the other cubs teams. Personally, I'm not much better.I'm devastated. My faith in the goodness of the world has been destroyed, after one game. (I'm not actually that bad, I'm not straddling the ledge like so many other cubs fans, but I am pretty bummed) It reminds me of the movie Platoon a little bit, after they find the one soldier has been tortured and mutilated and killed by the vietcong, and they are full of hatred. Ryan Dempster's body is laying in the middle of some river in Vietnam, his blood trickling away with the slow current, and I'm pissed about it. Thats how I feel.

But today, Zambrano pitches. Zambrano is crazy and unreliable and damn talented and unpredictable. He will be fired up, and he wants to win this game probably more than any person on the planet. He's been so hit and miss this season that he can't be trusted, but his intensity and his not give a fuck attitude is perfect for this situation.

In Platoon, after the guy is killed they are pissed off. And they have to take a village following Tom Berenger's character, who they hate because he is crazy and kills everyone, and they know they can't trust him. But after he finds his friend's body in the river, Charlie Sheen says about Barnes(Tom Berenger): "Barnes was the eye of our rage. And through him, our captain Ahab, we would set things right again. That day we loved him."

To me, that is how I feel about Zambrano. As a cubs fan, our sense of rationality is gone. Zambrano's antics this year have given many cubs fans headaches (not me, I still love him), but I even am queasy about him starting this game with the way he has been pitching. However, his intensity, his qualities that make him so frustating and worrisome, are exactly what make him so appealing today. Not despite of, but because of his flaws, this is the man I want on the mound today. And despite everything that has been said in the media, Z has a history of being clutch. (Sorry, season openers don't count)

Of course, in the movie, they turned to Barnes and he killed innocent people and he just typically fucked everything up until Willem Dafoe comes into stop it, which is a distinct possibility with Zambrano today. But following Zambrano, the face of the organization, at this stage, in THIS game, doesn't just feel right, it is right.

My Big Z no-hit experience

Note from the Editor: I've actually uploaded the pictures so they're viewable on GROTA, and I've promoted the blog to the front page for the world to see.

I was driving home after classes on 43 South when my girlfriend called me to break the news: "My flight to Houston got cancelled from the Hurricane.  Looks like I don't get to see the Cubs down at Minute Maid this year."  You could tell she was pretty crushed about it but I tried to cheer her up with talks that maybe, just maybe, the series would be rescheduled somewhere nearby like St. Louis so we could still make a road trip to see it.

As a Chicago Suburbs resident transplanted to Milwaukee, I had been lucky enough to see another transplanted series the year before when the Indians and Angels came to town to hide under the roof of Miller Park from the snow.  It was a great time, and as a baseball fan in general, it is always nice to see baseball in any form sometimes.  However, I had no expectation that Miller Park was even in contention to be picked for an alternate, perhaps even "neutral" site for the Cubs/Astros series to take place.  My luck changed for the better on Saturday night when I found out the news: the series had been moved to Miller Park.  I couldn't have been more ecstatic when I heard the news (there may have been a possibility of terrible white boy dancing involved... I'll spare you the details and mental images).

I called my friend, John, a transplanted Houston native and law school classmante of mine, and we both arranged to get tickets and planned out our tailgate the next day.


Image above: Mike, John, and I tailgating.

When we got inside the ballpark, my friend John wanted to go down to the dugout area and see if he could flag down JR Towles, a friend of his from high school (Towles was John's catcher in HS).  While we waited, we got to talk a bit with Ed Wade, who was getting ready for an interview.  He didn't seem too thrilled about the amount of cubs fans at the game.  (I also learned later that the Astros wore their alternate jerseys and stationed themselves in the visitors dugout as a form of "protest").

After the first pitch you all know what happened.  Soriano Homers.  Felt great.  I really thought that would be one of the big highlights of the game and at the end most of us would be talking about how much we enjoy him in the leadoff spot, even if it doesn't make sense, for that purpose alone.

Fourth Inning: I get up to pee in the mid 4.  Get back with one man on.  I ask the usher how Bourn got on and she tells me it was a walk.  I reply with, "Good, no hits."  I had no idea the foreshadowing that happened at that moment.  Runner erased a second later on a DP ball.

Bottom 5: Lee's height enables him to make a sick catch to end the inning.  Butterflies start.

Bottom 6: I just got quiet.  My jaw can only clench together.  After the final out my girlfriend looked over, looked at the scoreboard, and states "I'm going to leave you alone."

Bottom 8: I hear a girl seated behind me ask her boyfriend why he is acting "so weird."  He replies that he can't talk to her about it, he'll tell her later, when the game is over.  She sighs and pouts, not understanding what is going on.

Bottom 9:  The place is rocking.  I can't hear myself think.  I don't want to think, for fear of ruining the moment somehow.  Two ground outs.  One out left.  Full Count.  Flashbulbs.  Game.  I let out a gutteral yell that can only be described as primal and my fists are clenched to the point where you'd think I was trying to make the knuckles pop out.  The team mobs the field in a big blue blur.

My phone vibrated with a text message.  It was my Father.  "I had Holtzman's.  Now you have your own memory."

Everything fell into place in that moment.  In those awestruck moments, I couldn't help but think that the Cubs weren't simply a baseball team: they were a destined team.  I have never felt such electricity in the air at a game in my life.  I can only hope to have that feeling again sometime soon.  Maybe this time, come October, my father and I can share the moment that eluded him in the '69 season.

Without further adieu, I will share my pics (courtesy of my girlfriend and her camera)

The Final Pitch:

The Last Pitch

The Celebration:

Celebration Time

The Flooding of the Field:

Field Flood

The Scoreboard:


Me screaming like an idiot:


Ben Sheets, Philanthropist

Ben Sheets

Hope you all enjoy the photos!  Sorry for the quality of some of them... some are a bit grainy.

Shutterbug frenzy - more photos of the big day!

So I'm talking to Kurt earlier about how cool D.B.'s photos were and he goes and posts them all to the front page. Well, I could just sit there and say "yeah, they were cool photos, it doesn't matter he stole the idea from me" but I'm not like that. Oh no! Lucky for me I get a hot tip for something I can slap Kurt in the face with, for I don't have to scour the reader blogs, I get the stuff emailed to me directly! Yep, thanks to Steve McCoy I get to post never before seen on GROTA photos and look way cooler (well, less dorky) than Kurt. Haha!


Oh, and Steve also notes this was his kids' first ever Cubs game! I think that's called "doing it with style".

Outfielders rush in

I'm not going to flood the page (although the occassion possibly merits it) but go take a look at the whole set. Full credit to Scott (and D.B.) for helping us get a little closer to this one.

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