Chicago Cubs Burying Zambrano In the Bullpen
The Chicago Cubs are struggling a little bit. They've had such a rough start to the season, they're behind my lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in the standings.
Manager Lou Piniella is attributing these struggles to the bullpen, and is utilizing the imminent return of Ted Lilly to the roster as an opportunity to fix the bullpen by sending Carlos Zambrano there for the foreseeable future. This move is wrong for so many reasons.
Baseball Tonight's Aaron Boone and John Kruk argued that Zambrano is struggling, hasn't been as good in recent years, and needs the move.That is just flat-out wrong. Sure, right now Carlos has a 7.45 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP, but that is almost entirely due to his getting shellacked on Opening Day, to the tune of eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. Since that game, he's posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Obviously those aren't Cy Young numbers, but certainly nothing worthy of a bullpen reassignment.
Nothing about Zambrano's numbers - from his strikeouts to his walks to his home run rate - indicate anything other than a guy who simply isn't 22 years old anymore. He's actually been pretty consistent over his entire career.
Sure, the Cubs bullpen has been bad, but that's largely because the back end involves giving innings to guys like Jeff Samardzjia and Esmailin Caridad. Samardzjia has done nothing to prove that his choosing baseball over football was a good idea, and Caridad hadn't really accomplished anything in only 283 innings in the minors to indicate he'd be wildly successful in the majors.
Moving Zambrano to the bullpen is not the solution, especially when there is help to be had for a song. Braden Looper, who the Cubs have had contact with, is a great example. He has spent time as both a reliever and a starter, and could very easily be that innings-eating starter/reliever swingman to assuage Chicago's problems.
This is all also based on the assumption that the 34-year-old Lilly will jump right back to his old self when he returns. There are many ways to solve the Cubs' problem, but moving their highest paid player to the bullpen based on one bad start is guaranteed to haunt them eventually.