|(From my trip to Wrigley July 15, 2006)|
Today, the Mets face RHP Carlos Zambrano. The 10 year veteran is getting paid to be an ace, and that frustrates numerous Cubs fans because he isn't an ace, but he is still an average/above average pitcher.
He throws from a low 3/4s arm slot, features a 91-94 mph sinking fastball, a late-biting slider, a decent change-up and an improving split-finger. He uses his split as his main strike out pitch, which increased his walks (4.15 W/9 last year), but also increased his strikeouts (8 K/9). He's a fly-ball pitcher, but had an unexplained decrease in Home Runs last year, which contributed to a better than expected ERA (3.77). He probably is a better hitter than two or three regulars on the Mets, with a .632 career OPS and 20 home runs.
So the positives seem great, but here are the negatives: He's making 18 million dollars (signed through 2013) and people repeatedly question his work ethic and mental make-up. He missed time last year with back spasms that were blamed on poor conditioning. Also loses focus often in games and his mechanics are tough to repeat.
Update September 4: He's appeared in 30 games (14 starts, 88 2/3 innings), and is 6-6 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. He's walking an Ollie P-like #, 5 W/9 innings. He's been able to limit the HR again this year (only 1 HR allowed since May 15th), but you can't survive when you are walking that many hitters. He's only throwing strikes 44% of his pitches, a career low. His fastball velocity has also declined this year to an average of 90 mph, down from 92-93. He's increased his use of his cutter to 16% and is relying more on his split-finger as well. He's made 5 starts since his return from anger management, and is 3-0 and hasn't allowed more than 2 runs in any of those games. But his control has been erratic, walking 20 in the 29 1/3 innings. His last start versus the Pirates he went 5 1/3 innings and allowed only 1 run (unearned), but allowed 4 hits and walked 4.