Is Carlos Zambrano Back?

John WoelfelContributor ISeptember 1, 2010

CHICAGO - JUNE 25: Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws the ball in the 1st inning to Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on June 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Zambrano was suspended indefinitely by the Cubs for an outburst in the dugout after the 1st inning. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 6-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Since returning to the starting rotation in early August, Carlos Zambrano has been great.  Take a look at his numbers since his return to the rotation:

·         -In his five starts made, Zambrano is 3-0.


·         -In two games, he received no-decisions.  In one, he went five innings against the Giants and gave up 2 runs in a 4-3 loss.  In the other, he went 6 innings and gave up 1 run in a 5-3 loss to the Padres.


·         -In the 29 1/3 innings he has pitched, he has given up only 6 earned runs on 24 hits.  That’s a 1.84 ERA.


·         -Zambrano has not allowed a home run during that time.


·         -He has walked 20 batters while striking out 22.


·         -His season ERA has lowered from 5.46 to 4.36.


Obviously the statistic that sticks out on the negative side is the walks.  20 walks in 29 1/3 innings is not good.  But I still think that the control will improve with more time back in the rotation.  7 of those walks came in his first start back.  In his first three starts, Zambrano walked 15 and struck out 7.  In the last two starts, he has walked 5 and struck out 16.

He seems to be figuring it out. 

Here’s probably a surprising statistic.  Only twice all year has Zambrano given up four earned runs or more in an appearance.  One of those times was Opening Day when he was torched for 8 runs in an inning and a third.  The other?  The four run first against the White Sox that led to his dugout tirade.

If you don’t factor in his Opening Day disaster against the Braves, Zambrano would be 6-5 on the year with a 3.62 ERA.  All things considered- not too bad.

Those aren’t numbers worth $18 million by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe we have been blinded by the negative press and the drama that has occurred between moving from the rotation to the bullpen, back to the rotation, to anger management, back to the bullpen, and back to the rotation. 


Let’s be honest, Zambrano brought on the trouble he experience with his dugout tirade.  But Zambrano has also been jerked around a lot this year.  Face it, Piniella just didn’t do a great job with Carlos.  Zambrano isn’t always the easiest guy to handle and Piniella didn’t seem to ever be able to figure out what the answer was with him.


Zambrano needs to be important to the team and he needs to have consistency.  The good news is that as of right now, he has consistency and he has something to prove.  He is proving that not only does he still belong in the Big Leagues, but that he can be a really good starting pitcher. 


Where that will lead is anyone’s guess.  That may make him the 2nd or 3rd guy in the Cubs rotation next year, or it may lead to another team taking a chance on Zambrano and relieving the Cubs of some of his salary.


Either way, the way that Zambrano has been pitching is nothing but a positive for the Cubs at this point. 


And the Cubs can use more positives.