Tuesday, August 15, 2006


dusty baker was asked a couple days ago about the recent slump of carlos zambrano, who had compiled a 6.09 era in his previous four starts.

Baker doesn't believe Zambrano is tiring.

"He's strong," Baker said. "He works hard. It's impossible to continue the pace he was on. He won nine in a row. That's like a guy that hits .400 for two months and then he's going to have a bad couple of weeks.

"Most of this stuff is due to probably a loss of the strike zone in one inning, and we haven't played that well behind him the last couple of games. So it's a combination of him and us."

Baker spoke to Zambrano on Saturday about Steve Carlton's 1972 season, when Carlton went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA for a Philadelphia team that finished 59-97. He earned unanimous selection as the National League Cy Young Award winner.

"I talked to him about being himself and doing what he's capable of doing," Baker said. "To be a horse, to be a caballo, like an iron man under adverse conditions.

"If you're going to be truly great eventually, you're going to have to be that kind of person."

this writer wonders if baker also talked to him about mark prior, kerry wood and the hoardes of pitchers who destroyed their gifted arms and promising careers in a lawless pursuit of greatness that exceeded every boundary of moderation and common sense.

last night zambrano put his "slump" to rest, tossing eight innings of four hit ball. but it isn't quite as easy as that. he also tossed 121 pitches, in part because he walked seven -- zambrano continues to lead the majors in walks by a very healthy margin, nearly 20% more than any other pitcher in the bigs.

let's take a closer look at that. here are the majors sorted by innings pitched -- zambrano is second with 170.2 innings. look at the walk column. this more properly contextualizes just exactly how much more work zambrano is doing than other innings leaders in baseball. indeed, zambrano is second only to dontrelle willis in plate appearances against and has no peer in pitches thrown.

let's re-emphasize the point by examining the number of starts in which zambrano has thrown beyond some number of pitches and compare that to other heavy-workload starters around baseball sorted by games started.

pitchergames started100+ pitches110+ pitches122+ pitches
carlos zambrano2626165
barry zito2620133
andy pettitte261670
tim hudson261352
randy johnson261341
dontrelle willis2522151
bronson arroyo2522141
aaron harang2519141
dan haren251872
curt schilling251861
doug davis251771
john smoltz2519141
livan hernandez251392
jason schmidt2419153
matt morris241670
gil meche241591
jason jennings241380

there are a few things to note here. one is that zambrano has never taken the mound this year that he has not thrown at least 100 pitches. that is not to say he hasn't had bad outings -- but it is to say that, when he has bad outings, baker leaves him out there anyway. this means that zambrano hasn't had what most people would describe as "a breather" all season.

but perhaps the more amazing thing is that zambrano leads all of baseball in every catagory here -- starts over 100 pitches, over 110 pitches, over 122 pitches. he is easily the hardest worked pitcher in baseball, and by a significant margin.

and somehow, despite that, baker feels he has to talk to him about being "like an iron man"?

dear reader, zambrano -- should he make all 35 starts that he is likely to be scheduled for -- is on a pace to throw 3921 pitches for one of the worst teams in baseball, led by one of the most foolish managers in baseball, working for the great dereliction of major market ownership in baseball. he already is an iron man under adverse conditions. so this page must ask: what is the point to be proven in grinding zambrano's arm down to a nub?

in short, these are the wages of jim hendry's inability to make the correct decision in judging baker's failed tenure in chicago. baker, probably (and maybe rightfully) believing himself to be managing for his career to some extent, is going to deploy maximum firepower in an effort to stave off 100 losses. and that means running out his best pitcher for as many bleeding innings as he can twist out of that golden arm, come hell or high water.

hendry's inability to run the team competently is clearly taking its toll in other ways as well. this page could not help but notice the comments from baker over the weekend as he and the tribune put antagonistic distance between each other in preparation for the end of the season and baker's contract.

Before the Cubs' 8-7 victory over Colorado on Sunday, Baker answered the question, "How've you been?" with a cryptic response.

"I'm good, I'm good," he replied. "I mean, I could be better. Been better. But, I mean, this is part of the process of life. You want to be on top all the time. You want to be good all the time. Sometimes it's not like that. So you deal with it. You deal with it as a man. No complaints.

"You look around, I'm watching Bill Parcells with the Cowboys. It's very similar. He went to the playoffs his first year there [as coach], and they haven't been back in a couple of years, right? It's part of life, part of the process.

"You've got to treat yourself better. You've got to eat better. You've got relieve the stress. You've got to drink less, you've got to drink more water, you've got to take care of yourself."

this response is anything but cryptic. this page has not until now highlighted it in posts, but it has often been mentioned in passing in the comments -- the full implication of this last passage can only be realized in context of jim hendry's supposedly unpleasant personal predilections, however, and so now we should make mention of such notions here. hendry has long been rumored to be a notorious dionysian, a heavy eater and drinker whose habits border on the dangerous and destructive. indeed, his unfortunate and rather sordid divorce of some years back is said to have been centered in part on allegations of alcoholism.

this page can make no catagorical statement as to the truth or falsehood of any such rumor -- it has long been grist for the neighborhood mill surrounding the cubs, but this writer for one has certainly never seen hendry face down in a gutter clutching a bottle. but, whether is be so or no, baker is using those rumors against hendry with this a not-so-subtle turn of phrase -- so contextualized, this is immediately and easily seen not as cryptic but as a thinly-veiled shot at hendry. and that would seem to illustrate the extent to which hendry's relationship with baker has deteriorated.

with baker opening fire on his bosses in this manner as he continues to pound zambrano into the dust, this page takes heart that the dusty watch may yet come to the fruition that has long been denied it. and the sooner the better, for zambrano isn't just showing himself to be a horse -- he's showing himself to be a horse ridden by a man who has no care or idea of just how hard he is working him. bulls and horses can fall dead of exhaustion too.

No comments: