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Old Man Piniella Has Finally Lost It

By: Dominic Ronzani

I'll be the first to admit that Carlos Zambrano has been a source of great frustration for me. I elaborated on this in my first post on CubsMix. But never in my wildest imagination had I ever considered him a viable option in the back of the bullpen. Not because he doesn't have the right stuff to be a shut down pitcher in the late innings, but because the guy has been a really good major league starting pitcher! He's durable, averaging over 200 innings per season. He's a winner, victorious in over 60% of his decisions. His career ERA is in the mid-3's. And despite his foibles and bloated salary, Carlos Zambrano is by and large what you're looking for in a starting pitcher. The exact opposite of a Rich Harden: a fragile, two-pitch starter who's never eclipsed 200 innings. I spent most of last season pleading the case for Rich Harden the reliever to anyone who would listen. And I suspect I'll be doing the same for Carlos Zambrano the starter this season. At least as long as this preposterous experiment carries on.

Piniella's move is operating under two very false premises. 1) At this point, Carlos Zambrano is more valuable as an 8th inning stop gap than he is as a quality workhorse starter. 2) Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva will provide comparable output as starters to that of Zambrano. I feel I shouldn't even have to disprove these premises, but the unbridled stupidity of Lou Piniella has forced my hand. Now, I won't deny that the setup role has been problematic for the Cubs in 2010. But the notion that you should ever pull a proven successful starting pitcher from his role is patently ridiculous. There's a reason high end starting pitchers make 3 to 4 times the amount of high end relievers. They're simply not as easy to replace. It's like pulling Mario Batali out of the kitchen because the bus boys are underperforming. It makes no sense.

As far as Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny go, it doesn't take more than a cursory search of Baseball-Reference.com to see that history isn't exactly aligned with their early returns in 2010. Gorzelanny: 1 full season as a starter. 29 wins, 29 losses with an ERA of nearly 5. Carlos Silva: 61 wins, 64 losses with an ERA of 4.67. To think that these two guys will fill the void of a Carlos Zambrano in that rotation is aggressively ignorant.

Despite what you may be thinking, I've kept some of my vitriol on reserve. The reason for this is that I'm so openly confident that this experiment will be a failure of epic proportion. I believe so strongly that by June, Zambrano will be firmly re-entrenched in the starting rotation, and that this announcement will be a minor blip in Cubs history, that getting overly upset about it would merely be placing undo stress upon myself as a fan. But if June rolls around and Carlos Silva is serving up 500 foot shots onto Kenmore while Carlos Zambrano is sitting and watching from the bullpen, you can rest assured that my vitriolic reserves will be fully exhausted.

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