A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Enigma That Is Victor Zambrano

No one doubts Victor Zambrano's nastiness. The guy can make people swing and miss and that cannot be taught, but his major problem has actually been getting players to lift the bat off his shoulder and swing the bat. People have been a bit uneasy about Victor's performance this spring and rightfully so. The Mets have a lot invested in Victor's success as a Met and they hope he can be something other than an erratic starter that cannot find the plate.

Victor was not signed as pitcher, but he was converted to pitcher by the Devil Rays. From 1996 to 2001, he only started six games out of 236 games pitched. In that time, he compiled some pretty solid stats.

20 20 3.73 236 6 349 8.59 3.38 9.57 2.83 1.33

Victor never exhibited great control, but his w/9 of 3.38 over six years is certainly acceptable and should give people a glimmer of hope. In his first year with the D-Rays in 2001, he pitched solely in relief. He posted a 6.66 H/9, 3.16 BB/9, 10.17 K/9, and 3.22 K/BB ratio in 51.1 innings. Overall in 2001, between AAA and the Majors he posted the following line:

7 4 2.77 65 81.2 7.05 3.31 9.64 2.90 1.15

Of course the wheels fell off the bus in 2002 for whatever reason. He began the 2002 season in then pen and was getting horribly beat up by opponents and lost all control and was eventually moved into the starting rotation.

2002 numbers out of the pen:
4 4 7.21 31 48.2 9.25 6.47 5.73 0.89 1.75

It does not get much uglier than that. However, judging by his past, it is not out of the question that he straightens himself out since he had to much work before that to be ignored. It is possible he can decrease his BB/9 to at least enough to be a lot more dependable. Since 2002, it is a real big mystery as why his control went from "needs to work on it, but not horrible" to "walking in on your roommate having sex with the dog" bad. Obviously he could be pitching differently to Major League hitters, but his rookie season had a good enough body of work to prove otherwise. His BAA also tells me he has that swing and miss factor which means the mere idea that he moved to the major league is probably not the reason he cannot find the plate since when he is on, he controls the outcome. It is possible that he is somehow more effective out of the pen in short stint, but he has the tools to dominate as a starter over the course of a game. We know his pitches have serious movement on them, but at one point, he was able to work more effectively with that movement.

Here some numbers according to ESPN.com's three year splits:

Inning 1 234 28 8.36 .218
Innings 2 - 3 454 87 5.22 .247
Innings 4 - 6 613 103 5.95 .237
Innings 7 - 9 129 18 7.17 .279

I am still holding out hope for Victor to able to get his control, well, under control. If he can get his BB/9 to around 4, which is still well above league average, he could be dominant. Most of Victor's problems seem stem from the first pitch. Since 2002, when the count is 1-0, 24% of the batters reach base by not taking swing as opposed to 12% when then count 0-1. It also seems he has better results in his first inning of work in terms of control and it spirals downward from there. What can we expect out of Victor this year? Optimistically I'm hoping for a hard throwing right hander that is virtually untouchable when he is one and I’m hoping he will be on more than not. More realistically he will continue to be a frustrating pitcher that will leave fans drooling about what could be. However, there is reason to be optimistic. If he always hovered around 5+ BB/9 I would have a bleak outlook, but Victor has done it in the past and may still be able to do it again.

* * *

  • How fitting was it that !sh!! (I'm taking ECA Mike's lead on this one...) walks the first two batters on eleven pitches? He did come back to eventually strike out five in row and pitched as good as you can while giving up five earned runs, but anytime you give up more runs than hits, you've done something very wrong somewhere along the line. The Mets did a good job making Harang look like he was Roger Clemens circa 1988 and only got one hit off of him in 6+ innings of work. Thankfully the Mets managed to not get shut out and at this point, I'll take what I can get.

    Victor Diaz's gaudy .750 average was not going to last long as it dipped to .429 with an 0-3 performance. The Mets anxious bats could not get anything going. David Wright is awesome and three walks in one game for a guy who we all know will get his walks eventually is a great sign. Wright got one hit as well and accounted for four out of the combined nine hits and walks for the team.

  • Phil Humber lost his first professional game. The Dodgers beat the Mets 1-0 and Phil went five, striking out six, and gave up his lone run in the top of the first inning. Milledge got a hit in the game and the Mets only got four total.

  • Possible first overall pick in the upcoming draft Alex Gordon is on fire.

    Gordon, 6 foot 1 and 210 pounds, has hit .486-9-26 during his last 20 games while slugging .986 and posting a .617 on-base percentage.

  • Bill Pulsipher has a piece up on BA written through Alan Scwartz.

    I spent the 2000 and 2001 seasons pitching for seven teams in four organizations, usually in the minors. I was throwing complete slop. I was freaked out all the time. I wasn’t taking my medication. Every time I thought I had hit my low point, I hit another one. When I hurt my groin with the Yankees’ Triple-A Columbus team in 2002, I said, “That’s it. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.”

    I went back to my home in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and took a job, if you can believe this, tending the minor league fields at the Mets complex. There was something peaceful about riding the mower for hours across that grass, not feeling the inescapable pressure anymore. I was building mounds on the same fields that once made me a top prospect. It was masochistic, I suppose, but I needed the eight bucks an hour. That was life.

    My old groundskeeper friend from the Mets, Tommy Bowes, gave me the job on one condition--that I keep working out. So every other day I threw to another guy there, Randy Mitchell. I gradually felt the love for the game again. I thought of my young son, Liam Hayden Pulsipher. I made his initials LHP for a reason--also my son born later, Leyton Hale--so they could be reminded of who their daddy was, what made him special. Out there on the mower, I decided that I wanted to try being special again.

    For those of you without a subscription, Pulsipher had been suffering from depression and anxiety since coming back from his Tommy John surgery. He fought a hard and almost a decade long fight to get back to this point and hopefully he sticks for while.

  • Brian Bannister and the B-Mets have to feel good about beating CC Sabathia. Rehab assignment or not, he's one of the top lefties in the majors.

  • Gabriel Hernandez, who befuddled Power hitters to the tune of 6 strikeouts and only 2 hits including a stretch when he retired 10 consecutive batters. Hernandez went the first 4 1/3 inn.

  • All in all, a good day for three of the Mets most promising pitching prospects.


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