Ah, the rubber match. Not just for this set, but possibly for the season series. Unless there are playoff implications, the rain-out from Wrigley won't be made-up. John Danks and Carlos Zambrano, this has the makings of a good battle.
Big Z is always fun to watch, whether he has his best stuff or junk, on any given day. Another start in an AL park, so the pitcher who loves to hit is probably anxious to get past interleague play. So, I'll skip the hitting analysis on Zambrano and move straight into his stuff. No yadda yadda history on Big Z - like Ryan Dempster, he's a known quantity in these parts. I will remind you, however, that the big man is an impressive athlete, and he switch hits and plays his best sport equally well with both feet - futbol.
What He Throws
Zambrano has a full arsenal of pitches. Facing Danks today, we're going to see two very good cut fastballs. Big Z also has a sinker, slider, four-seam fastball, a splitter and even the occasional slow, overhand curve and a straight change. Zambrano releases from a very low slot, below 3/4, but will come over the top with the yakker. But he rarely throws it, not even breaking it out most games. Same with the straight change, which could just be a fastball with something taken off.
Here are Zambrano's pitch tallies, and average speed, over the PITCHf/x history back to 2007. He's not changed much, if at all, over the past couple seasons.
I wasn't kidding when I said the curve and change were not seen often. Something else to keep in mind, the fastball-cutter-slider fall along a continuum, like most pitches. For some games, the line between the pitches is blurry, since he'll add or subtract speed from all his pitches (he can throw 97mph but rarely dials that up) and the cutter can move like crazy on certain days. Other days, it's quite clear which is which, even on the margins.
How Good Is This Stuff?
Going back to the rv100 metric used in the Randy Wells preview, here's how Big Z's pitches stack up in terms of quality of outcome. This table will run-down each pitch, by year, along with a total rv100 for the 2+ years of PITCHf/x.
It's all about the cutter, baby. The splitter and the slider are good, too, but it's the cut fastball that pays the bills. Especially this year. The four-seam fastball is meh and the sinker the least impressive, results-wise, of the three Cubs starters this series.
That's It, For Now
Cutting (no pun) this one short, but I'll be back to wrap-up all the pitching in the series, plus a bonus look at the April HITf/x data for the White Sox. Enjoy the game.