Know Your North Side Pitchers - Carlos Zambrano

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.

Pitch # MPH
Sinker 1693 92.1
Fastball 1505 92.4
Cutter 1112 91.2
Slider 677 82.6
Splitter 621 85.2
Curveball 31 66.8
Change-up 10 82.9


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.

Year Type # rv100
2007 Change 2 -2.20
2008 Change 4 0.82
2009 Change 4 -3.31
Change 10 -1.43
2007 Curve 7 -6.92
2008 Curve 17 8.29
2009 Curve 6 0.67
Curve 30 3.22
2007 Sinker 365 0.45
2008 Sinker 1021 -0.54
2009 Sinker 244 -0.56
Sinker 1630 -0.32
2007 Fastball 478 -0.17
2008 Fastball 576 0.09
2009 Fastball 412 0.89
Fastball 1466 0.23
2007 Cutter 379 -1.11
2008 Cutter 566 -1.24
2009 Cutter 111 -3.26
Cutter 1056 -1.40
2007 Splitter 156 -2.47
2008 Splitter 313 -0.50
2009 Splitter 134 -0.86
Splitter 603 -1.09
2007 Slider 152 -1.70
2008 Slider 356 0.00
2009 Slider 136 -1.04
Slider 644 -0.62


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.

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