Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lou-sing it: Z to 'pen

My mind has just been blown. Then again, how can one be surprised? In one of the most idiotic moves in Cubs history, the team has taken Carlos Zambrano’s value to the team and cut it in half as Lou Piniella announced before tonight’s game that Big Z will be moving to the bullpen. Bottom line, this move makes the team worse. No matter how good Zambrano is in the bullpen, the team has just taken a shotgun and blown a hole in its chances to reach the postseason this year.

The most valuable relief pitcher in baseball last year was Jonathan Broxton, who put together a 2.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). This was half a win higher than any other relief pitcher in the majors. Carlos Zambrano, in his “off year” of 2009 was able to scrape out a cool 3.6 WAR. Simply put, relief pitchers can never be as valuable as good starting pitchers, and contrary to the belief of some, Carlos Zambrano is a very good starting pitcher. A workhorse good for 180-200 innings, the Cubs will now be giving at least 100 of those innings to Tom Gorzellany and Carlos Silva. If you don’t gag at that sentence I’d check your pulse.

This is Lou Piniella, completely losing his mind. Lunacy is reigning supreme at Clark and Addison, as there is simply no explanation for this move. Yes, the Cubs do not have a setup man. Somehow it has taken 18 runs in 14 different 8th innings this year for them to realize that no, John Grabow is not a setup man. He’s not even a good relief pitcher! He almost cracked 1 win above replacement last year with a “workmanlike” 0.2. However, it represented a great improvement over his -0.1 in 2008. His career best is 0.5 WAR in 2006. He probably drank half a beer with his buddies to celebrate. Forget wins above replacement; just look at how many batters he walks. His past three seasons he has posted walks per nine innings of 4.76, 4.83, and 4.38. That combined with a pitiful K/BB of 1.43 last year is a recipe for heartache in the late innings. As bad as John Grabow and the rest of the bullpen are though, this is a move of the most bone-headed proportions.

Almost as mystifying is the fact that Mt. Zambrano didn’t spew volcanic lava all over New York City upon hearing the news. In Zambrano’s own words, “Like Arnold Schwarzenegger says, ‘I’ll be back.’”

I sure hope so, but Lou is saying the move may not be temporary. 2008 first round pick Andrew Cashner has punched out 25 hitters in 17 innings at Double A Tennessee, and has the 98-MPH fastball and 88-MPH slider that would fit the 8th inning like a glove. After posting a 3.39 ERA in Double A last year, and with a 3.07 ERA in 137 minor league innings, calling up Cashner would seem to be a much more logical and much last drastic move than turning the team’s supposed “ace” into a reliever.

Piniella said that Zambrano will be ready to come out of the bullpen starting Friday. Never a dull moment with this team, as they aimlessly wander through the season with no sense of direction at all, lost in Lou’s madness.

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