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Carlos Alberto Zambrano (born June 1, 1981 Puerto Cabello, Venezuela but raised in San Antonio de los Altos, Miranda State) is a right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who has played for the Chicago Cubs since 2001. He is one of the few switch-hitting pitchers and is known for being a particularly strong hitting pitcher. His nickname in the media is "Big Z," but among teammates, he is known as "el toro."
Zambrano, a big, imposing figure at 6'5" and 255 pounds, was signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1997 and made his debut in 2001. After being used in both starting and relief duties, he enjoyed his first full season as a starter in 2003, finishing with a 13-11 record, 168 strikeouts and a 3.11 ERA. He was also a major contributor in the Cubs' run to the National League playoffs, in which they would come up five outs shy of the World Series, losing to the eventual world champion Florida Marlins.
Zambrano is noted for his vibrant personality on the mound. He allows his electric emotions to be readily evident, always indicating whether he is happy with his performance or not. Zambrano's pitches match this eclectic nature, as every pitch in his repertoire has significant movement. His pitches come out of a slinging, three-quarters to low three-quarters delivery. His main pitch is his hard, moving two-seam & four-seam fastball that clocks anywhere from 94-98 mph, but usually settles around 96 or 97 mph. Carlos has a devastating, heavy cannonball of a sinker that he loves to throw with a split grip, a pitch that usually winds up getting beaten into the ground by hitters - something of an advantage considering Wrigley Field and its tall, thick grass. He always makes sure to mix in plenty of sharp-breaking sliders & split-finger fastballs to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. He has also developed a change-up that he throws mostly to left-handed batters. His main weakness is a lack of pinpoint control, leading to a tendency to surrender walks. Nevertheless, Zambrano seems to be hurt less by giving up walks than most pitchers, due to the fact that batters hit many more ground balls than fly balls against him. This can be attributed to the sinking movement of his fastball. He rarely surrenders home runs (65 in his career) and often induces double plays.
In 2004, Zambrano led his team in ERA (2.75, fourth in the league), won 16 games (tied with teammate Greg Maddux), collected 188 strikeouts, and led the league in hit batsmen (20). He also got his first All-Star berth.
Through March 29, 2006, Zambrano has posted a 64-42 record with 865 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA in 977 innings. A switch-hitter, he hits well for a pitcher, either bunting or swinging away. He is a career .220 hitter with 12 home runs and 31 RBI, good numbers for a pitcher, especially in the power categories. He tied the club record for home runs by a pitcher in a single season after clubbing six round trippers in 2006. Ferguson Jenkins is the other Cub great who compiled six home runs in one season as a pitcher. Zambrano is one of only two ballplayers who pitched in the NL in 2006 who won at least 13 games in each year from 2003–06, the other being Greg Maddux.
2001 and 2002 seasons
Zambrano was called up to the Cubs and pitched in his first game on August 20, 2001, starting against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field in the second game of a double header. Carlos started the game well, retiring the first nine of the first ten batters faced. He ran into difficulties in the fourth inning, and was removed before getting any outs in the fifth. He was charged with seven earned runs, walked four batters, and threw just 74 pitches.
One month later on September 20, Zambrano gained his first big-league victory by finishing out the fifth inning against the Houston Astros. Carlos pitched just two thirds of an inning in relief of Juan Cruz, and was just twenty years old. Zambrano did not have any additional starts in the season, and the Cubs finished in third place with a 88-74 record.
Carlos started the 2002 season with the AAA Iowa Cubs, but was quickly called up to the big-leagues. Upon arriving, he was dispatched to the bullpen, and pitched in sixteen games during the first three months of the season. On July 1, 2002, Zambrano started against the Florida Marlins taking the spot of Jason Bere in the rotation who had been struggling. Carlos logged sixteen starts for the Cubs, mixing in four wins with eight losses. At times he showed his immense potential, including eight innings of shutout ball against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 4. Carlos did struggle with his control, logging 63 walks in just over a hundred innings of work. The Cubs posted a disappointing 67-95 record for the season, finishing in fifth place.
Carlos maintained his position in the Cubs starting rotation in 2003 and started 32 games with a 3.11 ERA and 13 wins in the fourth spot in the rotation, behind Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Matt Clement. The Cubs won the National League Central division, and were one win away from going to the World Series before being defeated by the Florida Marlins. The following year, Carlos improved his statistics by lowering his ERA to 2.75 and increasing his strikeout total to 188. His record was the best on the Cubs staff that year, compiling a 16-8 record.
On August 22, 2003, Carlos started against Curt Schilling and the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Curt pitched a strong game and recorded 14 strikeouts, it was Zambrano that received the attention as he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Carlos got the first two batters out before Shea Hillenbrand broke up the no-hitter with an infield single down the third-base line. The play was very close at first, with TV replays indicating that the call may have been blown by first base umpire Bill Miller. Carlos retired the next three batters (which would have been the final three outs) before giving up two more hits in the game. The previous no-hitter for the Cubs was thrown in 1972 by Milt Pappas.
Zambrano got his first post-season start on October 1 in Atlanta against the Braves in game two of the NLDS. He pitched 5.2 innings, giving up eleven hits and three runs. The last hit by Rafael Furcal bounced off of Zambrano's leg, and he was removed from the game as a precaution. The Cubs did come back to tie the game in the eighth inning, with Zambrano getting a no-decision. The Cubs won the series 3-2, with Carlos seeing no additional action.
Zambrano was the starter in the first game of the NLCS at Wrigley Field on October 7. While the Cubs spotted him a first inning 4-0 lead, he was unable to hold it, giving up five earned runs in six innings, including three home runs in the top of the third inning. The Cubs did come back, with a dramatic two-run homerun by Sammy Sosa in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. The Marlins did win the game in extra-innings 9-8. Carlos got his third chance for a post-season victory as the starter in the fifth game in Miami. Once again, Zambrano wasn't sharp, giving up four walks, five hits, and two earned runs in just five innings, along with the loss. Josh Beckett for the Marlins had a magnificent outing, throwing a two-hitter sending the series back to Chicago.
On May 7, Carlos had another fantastic start, throwing a two-hitter against the Colorado Rockies. Zambrano retired the first 14 batters he faced until giving up a single to Matt Holliday. Only 97 pitches were required on the afternoon for the victory, with Colorado managing to hit just four of them out of the infield on a breezy, cold day at Wrigley. Carlos continued his brilliance in his next start against the Dodgers, stringing together an additional eight innings without giving up an earned run. Through his first fourteen starts of the season, Carlos had posted an 8-2 record, with quality starts in twelve of the games. His early season performance also earned him his first trip to the All-Star game where he pitched one inning in relief.
Some of his most memorable starts have been against the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The first was on May 2, where he and Matt Morris threw shutout innings, and Carlos registered 12 strikeouts before being lifted in the 8th inning for a pinch hitter.
The next was on July 19, where he and Jim Edmonds built upon the rivalry between two Midwestern teams. In the first inning, Edmonds was hit by a pitch to load the bases. In the fourth inning, Edmonds connected for a home run, and watched the ball go over the fence from home plate. An agitated Zambrano yelled at Edmonds as he crossed the plate, but the night was far from over. In his next at bat in the sixth inning, Carlos struck Edmonds out on three pitches, and wagged his finger at Edmonds on his way to the dugout. In the eighth inning with the score tied, Scott Rolen hit a two-out, two-run home run to break a 3-3 tie. Edmonds was the next batter, which Zambrano immediately hit with a pitch and was ejected from the game. Carlos indicated that it was not intentional, but Rolen and manager Tony LaRussa didn't agree.
Zambrano was awarded the NL Pitcher of the Month for September. In his five starts during the month, Carlos posted a 4-0 record over 35.2 innings, giving up only four earned runs. It wasn't enough for the Cubs as they finished with a late season losing streak, and missed the playoffs.
With injuries to key starters, and Zambrano's improving game, Carlos began the new season as the opening day starter for the Cubs. Zambrano was cautious about the opportunity, but was less cautious arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Dale Scott after being pulled in the fifth inning and earned an ejection. Two starts later, Zambrano gave up one hit but left in the eighth inning after throwing 111 pitches. He had cramps at the beginning of the game that concerned some Cubs fans still wondering about the other starters.
Continuing to build on the rivalry with the Cardinals, Zambrano turned in good performances once again in '05. The first was on April 20, facing Jeff Suppan in St. Louis. Zambrano gained the victory pitching within one out of a complete game and had his first career triple. He returned to St. Louis again on July 22 to face ace Chris Carpenter. Carlos turned in another excellent performance, striking out twelve and giving up only three hits over nine complete innings. St. Louis picked up the victory in extra innings on a David Eckstein squeeze play. The Cardinals made the trip to Chicago on August 12, starting Jason Marquis against Carlos. Once again Zambrano gained the victory, this time pitching six shutout innings before leaving with tightness in his back A final start against the rivals was completed on September 18 as a rematch with Carpenter, with similar results as Carlos pitched a complete game, giving up two earned runs and gaining the victory, his third of the season against the Cardinals. The final results for the four games - three victories, no defeats, four earned runs, and averaging over eight innings a start.
Carlos had a strange injury surface early in the season that was first diagnosed as "tennis elbow" but was later traced to his use of the internet to stay in contact with relatives in Venezuela.
August 7 - In just the fourth meeting of pitchers with the same last name since 2000, Víctor Zambrano of the New York Mets outdueled Carlos Zambrano in front of 40,321 fans at Shea Stadium, pitching the New York Mets to a 6-1 win and a sweep of the three-game series. Both Zambranos entered with 42 career wins, the second time in Major League history that opposing starters with the same last name came in with matching victory totals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was on June 15, 1944, when Red Barrett of the Boston Braves and Dick Barrett of the Philadelphia Phillies each had 19 career wins. Like the Barretts, Víctor and Carlos obviously share a double feat, but the similarities don't end there. The Zambranos were born in Venezuela, both throw with their right arm, both switch hit, and both wear No. 38. Beside this, it was the fourth time in modern Major League history that starting pitchers with a last name beginning with Z faced each other, according to ESPN. Víctor and Carlos Zambrano have both faced Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants.
Zambrano had an excellent year hitting, with a .300 batting average and one home run. Zambrano finished the season sixth in the National League in strikeouts (202), tenth in earned run average (3.26), and third in winning percentage (70%, with a record of 14-6), seventh in WHIP (1.15), tenth in strikeouts per nine innings (8.14), and ninth in innings pitched (223 1/3).
For the second consecutive season, Zambrano was the Cubs opening day starter, and with similar results from the previous year. Carlos was wild, giving up five walks, and five earned runs without getting through the fifth inning. The Cubs did score runs posting 16 in the victory.
After a poor opening game, the Cubs did not give Zambrano much offensive support in his next six starts, providing less than two runs a game. This led to Carlos going winless until May 10, even though he pitched four quality starts in his first seven.
On June 5, Zambrano made another bid for a no-hitter against the Astros in Houston. Zambrano had a perfect game go one out into the eighth inning before Preston Wilson hit a single. Template:Cquote In addition to an excellent pitching performance, Zambrano hit a three-run homerun in the second inning, his first of the season.
Carlos Zambrano went to his second All-Star Game during the 2006 season. He was slated to pitch two innings in the game, however, he had to sit out the game after suffering a minor injury when he was accidentally hit by White Sox third base coach Joey Cora's fungo bat during pre-game warmups.
Zambrano peaked during the month of July, posting a perfect 6-0 record for the month, the first time a Cubs pitcher had recorded as many victories since 1979 when Rick Reuschel recorded seven in a month. He also was a start at the plate, hitting two home runs during the six games. Included in the month was a two-hit, ten strikeout, eight inning, 123 pitch performance against the Astros.
Carlos finished out the month with a 6-3 victory over the arch-rival Cardinals, where he bested Chris Carpenter. While the Cubs were far out of contention for a playoff spot, Zambrano continued with a positive attitude. Carlos was rewarded with his second National League Pitcher of the Month award for his July efforts.
Wildness did impact Zambrano's ability to throw complete games based on the number of pitches required to get deep into the game. On August 14, he pitched an excellent game, shutting out the Astros through eight innings on just four hits, but he also gave up seven walks, hit a batter, and recorded a wild pitch. He also needed 121 pitches to get through eight innings, and was replaced by closer Ryan Dempster in the ninth to finish the game.
In his 30th start of the season on September 4, Carlos suffered a setback leaving the game early in the second inning with lower back stiffness, but an MRI indicated no significant disc injuries. Carlos gave up four hits and four walks before leaving in the shortest start in his career. Zambrano avoided a trip to the disabled list, but was skipped in his next two starts - pitching again on September 17 against the Reds. Cub fans were relieved to see him pitch seven scoreless innings, and not showing any signs of the injury from his previous outing.
He finished the 2006 season 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA and 8.83 strikeouts per 9 innings. He gave up a major-league-worst 4.84 walks per 9 innings. Despite the Cubs' generally miserable season, finishing with the worst record in the National League, 2006 was a transformative year for Zambrano, as he thrived under the pressure of assuming the number-one role in the Cubs' rotation as the former aces apparent, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, were incapacitated for the vast majority of the season. Zambrano, despite still being occasionally prone to letting a bad start get away from him, developed from an emotional fireballer to a more mature and calculating pitcher who gained greater placement and movement on his breaking pitches while retaining his devastating two-seam and four-seam fastballs, the latter often showing that most unhittable combination of 98 mph heat and unexpected movement. Zambrano has always been well-known for his displays of emotion: he rises and falls with the ups and downs of the game, unable or unwilling to hide exuberance after a key out or great frustration after failure. This unsuppressed emotionality has sometimes been called a weakness, and at times in 2006 it appeared to many fans that Zambrano was consciously attempting to tamp his emotions down. However, Zambrano's apparent experiment failed quickly, as his least emotional starts were rarely the most dominating. Furthermore, Zambrano's indulgence of his emotion not only seemed to have a net positive effect on his performance, but endeared him to fans and made him today indisputably the Cubs' fan favorite by a wide margin. Always popular and an exciting pitcher, it was arguably not until 2006 that Cubs fans collectively accepted that both Prior and Wood were unlikely to overcome their injuries, and Zambrano's combination of intimidating attitude and performance made him the team's top draw and only truly indispensable player.
Zambrano's ERA of 3.41, while quite good in any circumstance, was inflated by a couple of quick exits in the beginning of the season and a somewhat less effective final few starts, possibly due to running up relatively high pitch counts throughout the season. During the middle months of the season, Zambrano was generally dominant, and established himself as one of the National League's top pitchers. He was often mentioned as a Cy Young candidate, although the Cubs' last-place finish made wins hard to come by. Despite getting no-decisions or losses towards the end of the season, his 16-7 record was still noteworthy for a weak-hitting, 66-win team. He also registered 210 strikeouts and a .207 batting average against; both led the National League. His summer streak earned him the National League Pitcher of the Month award for the month of July.
Adding to Zambrano's reputation as a formidable player is his ability as a hitter. Zambrano's batting average had previously been relatively high for a pitcher, averaging in the .230s and even reaching .300 in 2005, in 80 at bats (a full season for a pitcher). In 2006, however, Zambrano apparently decided to forgo the traditional sacrifice bunts and slap-singles that are the only option for most NL pitchers, and test his skills at swinging away. While Zambrano's batting average dipped to a more pitcher-like .151 (although this figure was higher at many times during the season), Zambrano's new ability to hit home runs more than made up for the loss of batting average. It established him as a rare and valuable commodity in the National League, where most teams are forced to watch many a rally die due to an automatic out every nine batters. Despite his low batting average, Zambrano's 12 AB/HR ratio is around that of top power hitters (it would translate to 49-50 home runs in 600 ABs, although the need to raise batting average would reduce power). Zambrano finished the season with six home runs as a batter, the most by a pitcher in a season since Mike Hampton of the Colorado Rockies hit seven in 2001, and not far from the all-time mark of nine (excluding Babe Ruth), set by Wes Ferrell in 1931. His hitting prowess led then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker to take the very rare step of using him as a pinch-hitter four times during the 2006 season. Unfortunately, he went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. Still, Zambrano's dangerous hitting earned him a Silver Slugger award. He avoided arbitration with the Cubs by agreeing to a one year, $12.4 million dollar deal.
Based on his tenure with the MLB, Carlos is eligible for arbitration at the end of the 2007 season. Originally, Zambrano indicated he needed to have a new contract signed before the start of the season, but it appeared that a deal was almost in place, so his agent extended the deadline to go into the season. Rumors are that he is looking at a five-year, $80 million contract inline with that of Barry Zito. 
After his last start of the 2006 season where the Cubs dropped to thirty games below .500, Carlos identified the need for quality pitching to be added before the next season. The Cubs management must have been listening as they added Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis in the offseason as part of a $300 millon spending spree. After the acquisitions, Carlos speculated on the fortunes for the 2007 season, declaring that he was to win the Cy Young Award and the Cubs would win the world series.
Zambrano and the Cubs start to the season was anything but predicted. In Zambrano's first five starts, only one was a quality start with Carlos posting a 6.91 ERA with 19 walks and 7 home runs allowed in just 28.1 innings. The Cubs did not fare much better, posting a 10-14 record in April. After a difficult game in Cincinnati where they blew a big early lead, Cubs manager Lou Piniella began to show a little frustration on the inconsistency being shown early in the season by Big-Z and the team.
One of the causes for his statistics being less than in previous years is Carlos' difficulties in the first inning. After giving up three first-inning runs in a loss on May 10, Zambrano described the challenge as being related to bad luck and control. 
Zambrano made some changes in his delivery with Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild and turned in a stellar performance in New York yielding only one run while providing eight strong innings. Template:Cquote
In his next start, Zambrano faced the cross-town rival White Sox at Wrigley. Carlos didn't get much support as Alfonso Soriano misplayed a foul ball in the second inning, extending the inning by an out which cost two runs, and Neal Cotts in the bullpen gave up a grand-slam in the seventh inning with two outs which charged back three addition runs. The official statistics looked poor as he was charged with seven earned runs, however it wasn't as poor of an outing as the box score recorded.
Zambrano continued to improve his performance in his following performance in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. He indicated his control issues were improving, and got ahead of hitters early in the count. Template:Cquote
On June 1, 2007, Barrett and Cubs pitcher Zambrano got into an altercation in the Cubs dugout. The dispute stemmed from a passed ball and errant throw (on the same play) by Barrett in the previous half inning that allowed a run to score and contributed to the unraveling of Zambrano who ended up allowing six earned runs on thirteen hits in five innings. Shortly after the controversy, he went on to win his next two starts. Zambrano came close to pitching a no hitter on June 16. However, he fell short of his goal in the eighth inning, when he failed to catch a ball that resulted in a single. Zambrano would later lose the game 1-0 on a solo home run by Padres lf-3b Russell Branyan.
There is some disagreement on what was Carlos Zambrano's most productive season. Some believe that it was 2004, when he posted a 2.75 ERA, won 16 games and struck out 188 batters. However, others believe that it was 2005, when he posted a 3.26 ERA, won 14 games and struck out 202 batters.
His pitches come out of a slinging, three-quarters to low three-quarters delivery. His main pitch is his hard, moving two-seam & four-seam fastball that clocks anywhere from 94-98 mph, but usually settles around 96 or 97 mph. Carlos has a devastating, heavy cannonball of a sinker that he loves to throw with a split grip, a pitch that usually winds up getting beaten into the ground by hitters - something of an advantage considering Wrigley Field and its tall, thick grass. He always makes sure to mix in plenty of sharp-breaking sliders & split-finger fastballs to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. He has also developed a change-up that he throws mostly to left-handed batters. His main weakness is a lack of pinpoint control, leading to a tendency to surrender walks. Nevertheless, Zambrano seems to be hurt less by giving up walks than most pitchers, due to the fact that batters hit many more ground balls than fly balls against him. This can be attributed to the sinking movement of his fastball.
- Signed as a non-drafted free agent by Chicago Cubs (July 12, 1997).
- ↑ Brewers 10, Cubs 2, baseball-reference.com, Retrieved on June 6, 2007.
- ↑ Cubs 12, Astros 4, baseball-reference.com, Retrieved on June 6, 2007.
- ↑ Brewers 0, Cubs 3, baseball-reference.com, Retrieved on June 6, 2007.
- ↑ Author Unknown,Cubs 4, Arizona 1, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 14, 2007
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=231001115
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=231007116
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=231012128
- ↑ Armour, Nancy, Chi Cubs 11, Colorado 0, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 14, 2007
- ↑ Harris, Beth, Chi Cubs 7, LA Dodgers 3, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 14, 2007
- ↑ http://www.baseball-almanac.com/asgbox/07132004.shtml
- ↑ Gano, Rick, St. Louis 5, Chi Cubs 4, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 15, 2007
- ↑ http://www.baseball-almanac.com/awards/pitcher_of_the_month_award.shtml
- ↑ Baum, Bob, , Yahoo! Sports, Referenced on June 15, 2007
- ↑ Author Unknown, Chi Cubs 4, Milwaukee 0, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 15, 2007
- ↑ Fallstrom, R.B., Chi Cubs 3, St. Louis 1, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 15, 2007
- ↑ Fallstrom, R.B., St. Louis 2, Chi Cubs 1, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 15, 2007
- ↑ Rick Gano, Chi Cubs 4, St. Louis 1, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 15, 2207.
- ↑ Author Unknown, Washington 4, Chi Cubs 3, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 15, 2007.
- ↑ Muskat, Carrie, Notes: Zambrano needs quiet time, MLB.com, Retrieved on June 15, 2007.
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=260403117
- ↑ Gano, Rick, Chi Cubs 6, St. Louis 3, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 16, 2007
- ↑ Duncan, Chris, Chi Cubs 3, Houston 0, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 16, 2007
- ↑ Author Unknown, Pittsburgh 5, Chi Cubs 4, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 16, 2007
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=260917116
- ↑ http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2006
- ↑ http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070401&content_id=1873621&vkey=news_chc&fext=.jsp&c_id=chc
- ↑ Gano, Rick, Colorado 5, Cubs 2,Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 6, 2007.
- ↑ Muskat, Carrie,Big Z makes some bold predictions, MLB.com, Retrieved on June 6, 2007.
- ↑ Author Unknown, Cincinnati 6, Chi Cubs 5, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 16, 2007
- ↑ Author Unknown, Pittsburgh 6, Chi Cubs 4, Yahoo! Sports, Retrieved on June 16, 2007
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=270520116
- ↑ http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=270616116