Throughout all the off-season drama and signings, the Miami Marlins have made an impressive run on improving the lineup and pitching staff for the new 2012 squad. Drastically improving the starting rotation, the Marlins also added the 2011 NL Batting Champ, Jose Reyes. Reyes solidifies the lead-off role and will be an upgrade defensively at short stop. What many people forget is, Reyes is not the only good hitter the Marlins were able to add. There’s another man who will be swinging the bat, just not as much as Reyes. This man is your fourth pitcher in the rotation, the 3X Silver Slugger Award Winner, Carlos Zambrano.
As a die hard baseball fanatic, I think it is crazy how fan’s still to this day fail to realize the importance of the pitcher at the plate. Especially in the NL, where your starting pitcher will usually hit at least 2 times a game. While most of the time pitchers are strictly utilized for sacrifice bunts, there are a number of times where they will come up in a situation that requires them to swing the back. Having a pitcher than can come up with a hit, or even a RBI, is considered a bonus and goes a long way in building confidence for the team. But when it comes to Carlos Zambrano, hitting is just another aspect of the game that he excels at. He call’s his hitting ability “a gift from God” but still refuses to be boastful about his talent.
“I don’t want to talk about my hitting. My job is to pitch a good ballgame every time out. I take pride in my hitting, but I’m not a hitter.”
And this is the perfect mentality to have. Big Z knows his job is to pitch, and to pitch well. There is little time to work on hitting in the off-season, so it is certainly a blessing to have the talent he does at the plate. Throughout his 11 year career, Zambrano has 23 HRS, 69 RBI’s, 26 2B’s, 3 3B’s, all on 159 hits. While is career average is just .241, this should be considered “great” for a pitcher that has had a total of 708 plate appearances in his career. Speaking of average, just last year Big Z. hit .318 with a .348 OBP. In case you have never seen Carlos at the plate, I will be the first to say it is a treat in its on way. You can clearly tell he wants to hit the ball hard, and will show frustration when he fails. Once after a strikeout, Zambrano felt so upset that he snapped his own bat over his knee. Now the question emerges, Would Ozzie consider moving Zambrano up in the lineup, similar to when McKeon hit Dontrelle Willis in the 7 hole?
“I’m not going to say I’m not going to do it,” Guillen said. “But I would have to figure out a reason to do it. I don’t think any pitcher is better than a (position player),” Guillen said. “I just worry about, make sure you pitch, that’s why you get paid.”
Understandable. I do believe Zambrano is a good hitter, but certainly not an upgrade over our hitting options now. Still, I will go out on a limb and say Zambrano will be used as a pinch hitter more than once this year. After all, Biz Z has had a total of 26 career pinch hit opportunities. Surprisingly enough, Carlos is not the only pitcher on the roster that can swing the bat. Wade LeBlanc, who has emerged as a favorite to make the opening day roster, is a career .287 hitter with 25 hits and 2 RBI’s. LeBlanc last year hit .364 with a .391 OBP over 27 plate appearances. Even ace Josh Johnson is capable, showing a lot of power when he connects with the ball. Throughout his career, JJ has 3 home runs, 5 2BS, and 23 RBI’s. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are less likely to contribute offensively, though Nolasco does have a homer and 36 career hits.
While anything received from a pitcher offensively is a gift, other than a bunt, it is nice to know the Marlins have a better chance of getting that gift than other teams. Many times when a pitcher comes up with a big hit, it is a deciding factor. With Big Z leading the offensive charge for the pitchers, expect the fish to win a few more games thanks to the #9 hole being overlooked.