Only a fantasy baseball manager who has owned Chicago Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano knows just how frustrating he can be.
When I traded Manny Ramirez last season in my head-to-head keeper league for Zambrano, Troy Tulowitzki, and Shane Victorino, I thought I was getting a steal. Tulo was just coming out of his slump, Victorino was a pleasant, consistent surprise, and Zambrano was one of the most coveted pitchers in our league. Since we keep 18 of our 30 players, I felt that trading in the slumping, thirty-something Ramirez for a couple of younger, more talented players was a huge swing for my team.
Well after foolishly trading Tulowizki for John Maine late last year, and shipping Victorino with Ryan Howard to get David Wright, Big Z remains the only player left who is directly related the the Manny trade. And this off-season it will be my top priority to deal him as quickly as possible.
It's not that his overall stats aren't appealing. He has a career ERA of 3.46 and has never had a season of with an ERA over 4.00. Even this season he has a ERA of 3.77 and 14 wins, great overall numbers for a fantasy pitcher.
But the truth behind the numbers are that he isn't nearly as consistent as his career statistics indicate.
His last two starts are typical Zambrano. Days after the Cubs' star threw his first career no-hitter, he gets rocked for 8 earned runs in just 1.2 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, a crippling start for a head-to-head league in the playoffs.
Luckily he was on my bench for his throttling, protecting my leads in ERA and WHIP this week in a crucial playoff match-up. But I'm certain that there are hundreds of fantasy managers out there who will lose this week solely because of his meltdown in Chicago.
It isn't as though this is an abberration. He has done this ever since I traded for him, not quite as drastic, but frustrating none the less. He tends to collapse for a month at a time, just bad start after bad start until you decide to bench him for a while. The moment you bench him he rattles of four good starts in a row. Finally back in your lineup, he gives up 6 runs in his next start.
I'm not saying he isn't a good player, and I'm not saying that if I can't manage to trade him that he won't be kept. But as anyone who has owned him can agree, Big Z can be a Big Pain for your fantasy team.