Sunday, September 28, 2008

John Kruk Has a Walnut-sized Brain

As the major-league baseball regular season comes to a close (one make-up game notwithstanding), we are treated to a special edition of Baseball Tonight on ESPN. At one point when I flipped over from the Bears/Eagles game (during a commercial, of course), John Kruk had this to say about Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs (I'm paraphrasing):

What I can't believe is the Cubs let Zambrano complete the no-hitter against the Astros. He was only scheduled to throw 80 pitches that night, but because of the no-hitter, he ended up throwing something like 120 pitches. I don't understand why the Cubs put the individual before the team. He shouldn't have been allowed to stay in that game--he hasn't been the same pitcher since then.

First off, this story quotes Cubs' manager Lou Piniella as saying he planned on using Zambrano for 90 pitches or so. Zambrano finished with exactly 110 pitches. So, Krukkie, if you're going to make this point, at least start by getting your facts straight.

The main issue with Kruk's statement is the idea that Zambrano "hasn't been the same pitcher" since the no-hitter. Zambrano threw the no-hitter on Sept. 14. Because of some arm soreness, he was held out of a start and hadn't pitched in 12 days. So there has been legitimate concern about Zambrano's health.

But in the case of Zambrano "not being the same pitcher," he actually has been the same pitcher. In his two starts before the no-hitter, Zambrano's combined stats are 9.3 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 7 BB, and an 8.68 ERA. In other words, he was shelled like Iwo Jima. In his two starts after the no-hitter: 6.3 IP, 9 H, 13 ER, 7 BB, 18.57 ERA. In those starts, he was recreating the "shock and awe" campaign in 2003 Baghdad.

My point is that Zambrano has been exactly the same pitcher since the no-hitter as he was in the starts leading up to it. And remember that the no-hitter came against the Houston Astros, in a game moved to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike. It wasn't decided that the game would be played there until the day before; as a result, the Astros didn't get in to Milwaukee until early in the morning of the game. Add to this the stress the players were feeling about the hurricane and their families' safety, and it's possible that I may have been able to toss a few scoreless innings against them.

The idea that Zambrano throwing 110 pitches instead of a scheduled 90 in the no-hitter has made him a bad pitcher late in the season is just silly. Zambrano had his problems before the no-hitter, and he seems to still have those problems. That doesn't bode well for the Cubs as they enter the playoffs, but Zambrano's no-hitter has nothing to do with it. Of course, Kruk needed something to talk about concerning Zambrano, so he said the first thing that he could think of.

Actually, it was probably the second thing he thought of. The first was, "me like candy."

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Blogger Zinglebert Bembledack said...

If a pitcher is pitching a no-hitter, short of having his arm fall off or something really, really hurting, he is going to keep pitching until the end of the game or the end of the no-hitter. I have a hard time picturing Pinella walking out to the mound to tell Zambrano in the 8th inning that he has reached his "limit" of 90 pitches.

Pinella: "Great outing Z, but I need you to save your arm, so go hit the showers and we'll let Kerry wrap up the no-hitter for you."

Zambrano: "Wha...? I'm in the middle of a no-hitter. I've only got another inning plus and my arm still works."

Pinella: "Yes, but since you just returned from arm soreness, we need your arm rested for the playoffs."

Zambrano: "I'm pithcing a FUCKING no-hitter here!"

Pinella: "Yes, and Wood can finish it for you. Run along now."

I'm sure Pinella or a pitching coach kept tabs on how Zambrano's arm was feeling throughout. If Pinella WAS concerned, he could have pulled him.

Obviously, as Slut pointed out, the additional 20 pitches did not adversely affect his numbers. He faced a shell-shocked team on a "neutral" field where their minds were probably not fully on baseball. Had this game been held in Houston or somewhere not so close to Chicago, the results could have been closer to Zambrano before and after the no-hitter.

September 30, 2008 at 2:36 PM  

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