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Friday, April 6, 2007

Overrated Player Alert: Carlos Zambrano

In the latest addition of the Mailbag I advised our anonymous reader to reject his proposed to trade of Carlos Zambrano/Johnny Damon for Brandon Webb/Delmon Young. I then advised him to seek out another trade to rid himself of Carlos Zambrano while his value is high. Reader Keith asked me to explain my distrust of Zambrano. I believe I've briefly mentioned why I dislike Zambrano before, but I'll explain it again now.

Carlos Zambrano has a good K/9 (mid-to-high 8s). That's always a great start for a pitcher, especially for fantasy purposes. But then we look at Zambrano's BB/9. It was 4.84 in 2006. That is incredibly high and makes the type of success many fantasy leaguers expect of Zambrano extremely difficult to come by. Of course that was his highest mark since 2002, but even in 2004 and 2005 his BB/9 was 3.48 and 3.47, respectively. Zambrano does get a lot of groundballs, which is also a good thing. His career GB Percentage is 51.2%, exceptional for a power pitcher.

A player's K rate and GB rate are difficult to drastically improve, but a player's BB rate is not as difficult. Zambrano has the two easiest going in his favor, and an BB rate under 3 would make Zambrano the pitcher most people think he is. But he is not there. If he is going to make this leap, it is most likely to be in the next 3 years (his age 26, 27, and 28 seasons). 27 is usually the magic number, but it can vary.

Now that I've explained his makeup, I'll explain my dislike for him - this year anyway - as a fantasy pitcher. The crop of pitchers this year is incredible, and I was able to pinpoint some great values. With this being the case, using a 4th or 5th round pick on Zambrano seems foolish, especially when there are pitchers that already have the peripherals I think Zambrano is capable of attaining. Why hope for something to happen when there are players who are already doing it?

While he has a lower GB rate, Jake Peavy has a higher K rate and much lower BB rate. Felix Hernandez has a similar K rate, better GB rate, and a better BB rate. Felix is still just 20 and is entering his third season (another magic number for pitchers). Brett Myers has a similar K rate, better BB rate, and only a slightly worse GB Percentage.

I think you see my point. Why would you want to bank on a possibility when the reality is already there... and at a discounted price!

I strongly suggest anyone who owns Carlos Zambrano to trade him. He certainly could improve his BB rate this year and join the ranks of the elite pitchers, but the player's he'd be joining are already there. Trade him for one of these guys and get a little extra out of it.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the response. I was just curious as I really agreed with almost all of your other pitcher evaluations. I'm still not sure I'd take Webb over Zambrano, as I still kind of feel like Webb had his career year already and doesn't have that much room for improvement, but I definitely follow your logic. I was ecstatic to get Peavey in the 4th round of my 14-team league, and would have definitely taken him ahead of big Z. Unfortunately, Felix went in the 5th, and Myers in the 6th, but I still managed to snag Sheets, Harden, Hamels and Rich Hill (Schilling went earlier than I thought he would). Anyway, I dig your work and appreciate the response.

Derek Carty said...

Peavy in the 4th round of a 14-team league is a steal; nice job. I like the rest of your staff too. Hill is a question mark, but if he can keep his BBs down he's a good pitcher.

True that Webb may not improve dramatically, although an ERA in the high 2s is a possibility. Even if his surface numbers remain at their level last year he is still a fantastic pitcher. He doesn't really need to improve to be among the top pitchers in the game, which is why I like him more than Zambrano. Zambrano needs to improve, Webb does not.

Thanks for your comments!