There’s been a ton of news about Carlos Zambrano’s contract recently, and how the Cubs may or may not give him a five year deal and how he deserves more money than Barry Zito, etc…. Now it’s true that Zambrano has been a rock in the ERA department the past 4 years, never posting an ERA above 3.50, not to mention he’s thrown 861 innings; the 5th most in baseball since 2003. So it seems that everything has gone swimmingly for Zambrano the past 4 years, with no cause for concern, right?
Well, his walks per 9 innings (BB/9) hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency that his ERA has been. Actually, it shot through the roof last year to a poor 4.84. You know who has a 4.84 BB/9? Daniel Cabrera in 2005. Oddly enough, they had similar strikeout rates (if you compare 2005 and 2006). Now, I’m not saying Carlos Zambrano is Daniel Cabrera because, well, Daniel Cabrera’s BB/9 hasn’t seen been on the right side of “4”, ever.
But doesn’t it make you wonder where his control went and if this is something that’s going to rear it’s ugly head again in 2007? It’s not like he had an isolated spot in 2006 where he was completely awful and then returned to his usual 3-something BB/9. He was not so wonderful all season long.
I guess the question is, was it just an off season for walks, or is there something else going on? Perhaps he’s wearing down from his rather crazy workload? He has thrown over 14,000 pitches (the third most in baseball) since the 2003 season. He also has the second most 100 pitch games with 107 during that same time period. Only Barry Zito had more.
So, we have a sky-rocketing walk rate and a pretty incredible workload to tag to Carlos Zambrano going into the 2007 season. Maybe it’s nothing and he’ll post another sub-4 ERA with workhorse numbers, but I’d say these are two warning signs of a potentially disappointing 2007.
David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.