Mar 13, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano (38) points skyward after an inning against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Miami Marlins 2012 Season Preview: # 5 Starter

Lets continue with our 2012 Miami Marlins season preview. Today we will be looking at the number five pitcher for the Miami Marlins.

Typically, number five starters are supposed to be boring, non headliners. The only time you ever think of them as a baseball fan is when you are cursing them out for having a bunch of bad starts in a row.

The Miami Marlins and their number five starter are atypical, though.

 

The Marlins acquired Carlos Zambrano and cash from the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Chris Volstad. The trade involved two pitchers that has been struggling the past few seasons.

The two pitchers both struggled in 2011, but are very much different in every aspect. Zambrano has a proven track record, while Volstad was a former first round pick that was still trying to establish himself.

The Marlins decided that their money was better investing in a pitcher for one seasons, that was declining, then put their money into a pitcher that was showing some signs of improvement, and under team control for three seasons.

With the Marlins new win-now mode, it is hard to fault them for that move. Zambrano is more likely to bounce back in 2012 then Volstad is to have a big break out season.

A problem for Zambrano in 2011 was his drop in strikeout production. For a pitcher that walks 10.8% of his batters, Zambrano cannot struggle to get strikeouts, as he was putting too many men on base. Last season, Zambrano had just a career low 15.6% on his strikeouts. The Marlins will need to see improvement in that in 2012.

Combine the lack of strikeouts and his lack of plate control at times, hitters made a career high in contact rate off of Zambrano.

 

Zambrano, Season Swing% O-Swing% Contact% O-Contact%
2011 43,9 25.2 84.7 69.8
2010 42.6 24.8 80.9 62.3
2007-2011 (Pitch F/X era) 44.0 26.6 82.4 66.6

 

Zambrano was not changing anything up from his previous success. Zambrano was still getting the same amount of swings in and out of the strike zone, but with less strikeouts, the contact rate grew at an alarming rate.

One reason for that struggle could be Zambrano’s velocity. In fact, over the past five seasons, we have seen a dip in Big Z’s velocity:

 

Zambrano, Season FF Vel (mph)
2011 90.2
2010 90.5
2009 91.5
2008 91.6

 

The good news for Marlins fans, Zambrano’s fastball has new life on it. Zambrano reportedly had more zip on his fastball in Winter Ball and is bringing the same heat to spring training. He has been around 91-93 this spring. If Zambrano can maintain his velocity at that level, the Marlins and Zambrano will be in fantastic shape. Zambrano can get back to his 20% strikeout rate if he does.

 

Mar 13, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano (38) delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

 

Another issue for Zambrano in 2011 was the amount of home runs he allowed. Zambrano has always been known as a guy who can suppress home runs well, but in 2011, that was not the case. Zambrano allowed over a home run an inning in 2011.

Regression and moving from the hitter friendly confines of Wrigley Field to the spacious new Marlin Park should help Zambrano bounce back big time when it comes to that.

With some regression, the Marlins are likely to see a rebound season from Zambrano. I still find it unlikely that he can ever return to that level he was on when he was a Cub.

What do the projection systems think about those chances?

 

Zambrano, Proj IP K% BB% ERA FIP
ZiPS 137 19.7 10.9 4.20 4.12
Steamer 158 17.8 10.1 4.53 4.39
PECOTA 144 19.2 10.6 4.11 3.97
Fans 168 19.1 9.9 4.08 4.18

 

The projection systems are not big believers that Zambrano will be pitching too many innings. At this point, it would be a lot to expect 200+ innings from Big Z. But 137-158 is also a bit low.

The most reasonable innings for Zambrano would be around the 165-175 range. The Fans were the ones closest to that mark.

All the projection systems have Zambrano’s strikeout rates returning to normal, expect for Steamer, which seems to me is an Atlanta Braves fan, still bitter about Big Z’s meltdown. (Totally just kidding).

Here are my projections for Big Z:

Projection IP ERA FIP BABIP K% BB% GS
165 4.18 4.10 .343 19.7 10.1 28

 

Overall, this is a solid season for Big Z. The Marlins are paying just $2 million for his services, and if he posts these numbers, he would be a league average pitcher. Actually, quite a bargain.

The only thing that remains to be seen is who has a better season, Zambrano or Volstad?

 

March 19, 2012; Jupiter FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano (left) and center fielder

 

 

Thanks for reading the season previews guys. Will have a look at the projections tomorrow! Then the season will kick off on Wednesday. I will have a game preview article up that morning.

 

 

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Carlos Zambrano Chicago Cubs Chris Volstad Miami Marlins

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