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Carlos Alberto Zambrano (born June 1, 1981, in Puerto Cabellomarker, Venezuelamarker), popularly known as "Big Z" or "El Toro", is a right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who has played for the Chicago Cubs since 2001. He is signed with the Cubs until the 2012 season.

Zambrano, an imposing figure at 6' 5" and 255 pounds, was signed by the Cubs as a 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.

Widely regarded as one of the best hitting pitchers in the game, Zambrano, a switch-hitter, has a career .236 batting average with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .394. The 20 home runs are the most ever by a Cubs pitcher. He also tied with Ferguson Jenkins for the club record for home runs by a pitcher in a single season, hitting six in 2006. Due to his impressive stats at the plate he has been called on to pinch hit 19 times in his career and has won a Silver Slugger Award three times for his hitting.

Zambrano is one of only two National League pitchers to have won at least 13 games in each year from 2003–07, the other being former teammate Greg Maddux. In 2006, he became the first player from Venezuela to lead the National League in wins.

Pitching style

Zambrano is noted for his vibrant personality on the mound. He allows his emotions to be evident, always indicating whether he is happy with his performance or not. Zambrano's pitches match this nature, as every pitch in his repertoire has significant movement. His pitches come out of a slinging, three-quarter to low-three-quarter delivery. His main pitch is a hard, moving two-seam fastball that clocks at around 90–94 mph and a four-seam fastball that can reach 99 mph, but usually settles around 96 or 97 mph. He also has a heavy sinker that he throws with a split grip, a pitch that hitters often beat into the ground – an advantage considering Wrigley Fieldmarker's tall, thick grass. He always makes sure to mix in plenty of sharp-breaking sliders and split-finger fastballs to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. In addition, Carlos has also developed a changeup 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 walks than many pitchers, since batters hit many more ground balls than fly balls against him. This can be attributed to the sinking movement of his fastball.He has hit triple digits like 100 and 101

Professional career

2001–02 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 Fieldmarker in the second game of a double header. Zambrano 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. Zambrano pitched just two-thirds of an inning in relief of Juan Cruz, and was just 20 years old. Zambrano did not have any additional starts in the season, and the Cubs finished in third place with an 88-74 record.

Zambrano started the 2002 season with the AAA Iowa Cubs, but was quickly called up to the big leagues where 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 a struggling Jason Bere's spot in the rotation. Zambrano logged sixteen starts for the Cubs, recording four wins and eight losses. At times he showed immense potential, including eight innings of shutout ball against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 4. Zambrano did struggle with 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.

2003 season

Zambrano 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, Zambrano 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, Zambrano 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. Zambrano 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. Zambrano 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 Zambrano 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 home run by Sammy Sosa in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. The Marlins did win the game in extra-innings 9-8. Zambrano 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.

2004 season

On May 7, Zambrano 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. Zambrano 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, Zambrano 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 Zambrano 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, Zambrano 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, whom Zambrano immediately hit with a pitch and was ejected from the game. Zambrano 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, Zambrano 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.

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 was also selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career.

2005 season

With injuries to key starters, and Zambrano's improving game, Zambrano 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. Zambrano turned in another excellent performance, striking out 12 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 Zambrano. 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 Zambrano 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.

Zambrano 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 Stadiummarker, 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 Zambrano obviously share a double feat, but the similarities don't end there. The Zambranos were born in Venezuelamarker, 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).

2006 season

For the second consecutive season, Zambrano was the Cubs opening day starter, and with similar results from the previous year. Zambrano 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 Zambrano 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.

In addition to an excellent pitching performance, Zambrano hit a three-run home run in the second inning, his first of the season.

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 star 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. Zambrano 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. Zambrano 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 shut 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, Zambrano suffered a setback leaving the game early in the second inning with lower back stiffness, but an MRI indicated no significant disc injuries. Zambrano 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.

2007 season

Based on his tenure with the MLB, Zambrano was 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. The contract was close to being done, but then the sale of the team was announced, and all talks were put on hold. Zambrano ultimately signed a five-year, US$ 91.5 million dollar contract on August 17, 2007.
Zambrano warming up before a game.
After his last start of the 2006 season where the Cubs dropped to 30 games below .500, Zambrano identified the need for quality pitching to be added before the next season. The Cubs management added Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis in the off-season as part of a $300 million spending spree. After the acquisitions, Zambrano 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 Zambrano 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 against 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 Zambrano' 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.

In his next start, Zambrano faced the cross-town rival White Sox at Wrigley. Zambrano 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.

On June 1, 2007, Michael 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 an infield single broke up the no-hitter. Zambrano would later lose the game 1-0 on a solo home run by the Padres' Russell Branyan.

He finished July with 5-1 record, which was the best in the league. which led the National League. He became the first pitcher to win fourteen games in 2007, and won the "National League Pitcher of the Month" in July. After winning the award, Zambrano began to struggle throughout August. He started the month by earning a no decision on August 3, after leaving the game early due to dehydration. He recorded his one thousandth strike-out during his subsequent start, but proceeded to lose the game. Zambrano went winless in August, despite signing a rich multi-year contract with the Cubs. He started September by failing to win a game against the LA Dodgers. Zambrano, who only lasted four innings, was booed by Wrigley Fieldmarker’s audience as he left the field. In a post game interview, he retaliated at fans by stating, "I thought these were the greatest fans in baseball, but they showed me today that they only care about themselves. That's not fair, when you are struggling, you want to feel like you have their support. I don't accept their reaction”. He apologized for making the remarks the following day.

Zambrano started Game 1 of the 2007 NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks but left after only six innings and 85 pitches because Cubs manager Lou Piniella planned to bring the right-hander back on three days’ rest in Game 4. It was a failed tactic, as the Cubs lost in three games, with Piniella's Game 1 move to be "questioned for years".

2008 season

Zambrano started the 2008 season by compiling a 12-4 record with a 2.76 ERA through July 27. At the plate, he has a batting average of .354 thru September 14. Zambrano also had a four-hit game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 23, making him the first Cubs pitcher since Lew Burdette in 1964 to accomplish this feat. On June 21, the Cubs placed Zambrano on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to June 19), because of a right shoulder strain. In his return off the DL on July 4, Zambrano pitched six shutout innings and recorded the victory in the Cubs' 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On July 7, Zambrano was one of seven Chicago Cubs players announced as participants of the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. On July 19 he set the club record for home runs by a pitcher, when he hit a seventh inning homer in Houston off Wandy Rodriguez.

In his first start back after missing two starts due to rotator cuff tendinitis, Zambrano pitched a no-hitter on September 14 against the Houston Astros. The game was moved to Miller Parkmarker in Milwaukeemarker because of damage in Houston due to Hurricane Ike making it the first ever neutral site no-hitter. Zambrano only allowed two base-runners as he walked Michael Bourn in the 4th inning and hit Hunter Pence in the 5th inning. It was the first no-hitter by a Cubs pitcher since Milt Pappas did so September 2, 1972 breaking the longest drought of any team to have already had a no-hitter. Zambrano gave up one walk and threw 10 strikeouts over 110 pitches in his 14th win for the season and his 95th all time.

2009 season

On May 27, 2009, Zambrano was ejected in the seventh inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates after an argument with umpire Mark Carlson on a call of safe at home plate. He then threw a ball into left field, tossed his glove, and then proceeded to hit a Gatorade dispenser in the dugout with a baseball bat. Zambrano was ultimately suspended for six games and fined $3,000 by Major League Baseball. Zambrano ran into trouble again when he missed the team's flight to Atlanta, Georgiamarker. The issue was resolved internally, within the Cubs organization. During his next start, Zambrano struck-out seven batters, and hit the game winning home run en route to his 100th career win. After the game, reporters began to inquire if Zambrano could possibly win 300 games during his career. He replied that he tentatively plans to retire after when his contract with the Cubs expires, claiming, "I want to help this team and do everything possible to win with this team. After five years, or four years, or whatever it is, that's it. I just don't want to play. I want to stay at home and see my daughter grow up and be with my family more."

Career earnings

As of 2008 season
Year League Team Salary ($)
National League Chicago Cubs 16,000,000
National League Chicago Cubs 12,400,000
National League Chicago Cubs 6,500,000
National League Chicago Cubs 3,760,000
National League Chicago Cubs 450,000
National League Chicago Cubs 340,000
Career Total 39,450,000


Career statistics

Minor league statistics

Source.

Year Team League (Level) W L ERA G GS IP H K BB WHIP K/9
1998 Arizona Cubs Arizona (Rookie) 0 1 3.15 14 2 40 36 36 25 1.6 8.1
1999 Lansing Midwest League (A) 13 2 4.17 27 24 153.1 150 98 62 1.38 5.7
2000 West Tennessee Southern League (AA) 3 1 1.34 9 9 60.1 39 43 21 0.99 6.4
2000 Iowa Cubs Pacific Coast AAA 2 5 3.97 34 0 56.2 54 46 40 1.66 7.3
2001 Iowa Cubs Pacific Coast AAA 10 5 3.88 26 25 150.2 124 155 68 1.27 9.3
2002 Iowa Cubs Pacific Coast AAA 0 0 0.00 3 3 9 2 11 6 0.89 11
Totals 28 14 2.75 113 63 468.6 405 389 222 1.29 7.97


Major league statistics

current as of June 10, 2009.
Season W L

ERA G GS IP H K BB WHIP K/9
2001 1 2 15.26 6 1 7.2 19 4 8 2.48 5.0
2002 4 8 3.66 32 16 108.1 94 93 63 1.45 7.7
2003 13 11 3.11 32 32 214.0 188 168 94 1.32 7.1
2004 16 8 2.75 31 31 209.2 174 188 81 1.22 8.1
2005 14 6 3.26 33 33 223.1 170 202 86 1.15 8.1
2006 16 7 3.41 33 33 214.0 162 210 115 1.29 8.8
2007 18 13 3.95 34 34 216.1 187 177 101 1.33 7.4
2008 14 6 3.91 30 30 188.2 172 130 72 1.29 6.2
2009 6 4 3.36 17 17 107.0 94 88 47 1.32 8.2
Totals 102 65 3.47 248 227 1489.0 1252 1260 667 1.29 7.7


See also



References

External links


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