Carlos Zambrano is attempting a comeback with the independent league Chicago Dogs.
Is it possible he makes it back to the Majors? Sure. But it’s still not likely.
But hey, there are three pitchers older than Zambrano (who turns 38 on June 1) who have thrown a pitch in the Majors this season. That list includes Fernando Rodney, CC Sabathia & Pat Neshek. Oliver Perez & Adam Wainwright were born just a few months after Zambrano.
He pitched for Yucatan in the Mexican League in 2018, where his fastball apparently topped out at 89 MPH. He had a 5.18 ERA in 7 starts, walking 17 and striking out 11 in 33 innings. Zambrano said he hit 94 in the Venezuelan winter league, but even if it did he had a 7.36 ERA in 29.1 innings there, with only 10 strikeouts.
But hey, who knows…
At the very least, let’s go back and remember for a moment just how good Big Z was; it’s easy to forget how dominant he could be.
The last Cubs no-hitter at Wrigley Field was Milt Pappas on September 2, 1972 (both of Jake Arrieta’s were on the road). But the last Cubs no-hitter within 100 miles of Wrigley Field was by Carlos Zambrano, who tossed one September 14, 2008 at Miller Park (the Astros played a home game there due to Hurricane Ike), which is about 90 miles from Wrigley Field (could Zambrano’s fastball travel from Wrigley to Miller in less than an hour???).
In addition to that no-hitter, while with the Cubs he took a no-hitter into the 7th inning on five other occasions. There was a feeling he could throw one any time he took the mound.
Over his 6-year peak with the Cubs (2003-08), his 3.39 ERA ranked 10th out of 117 pitchers with 600 or more innings; his league & ballpark adjusted ERA+ of 133 (33% better than league average) ranked 9th of 117. His opposing batting average of .226 ranked 6th out of 117.
Zambrano’s 1,542 career strikeouts with the Cubs is topped by only Fergie Jenkins (2,038). Those are the only two pitchers in franchise history (whose National League lineage dates back to 1876) with at least 1,500.
His career WAR (according to baseball-reference.com) is 43.2, and that’s good for 16th in franchise history. Again, that’s nearly 150 years of franchise history. In fact, his career total of 43.9 WAR (he played for the Marlins in 2012) is good for second all-time among players whose last name begins with Z, and the leader will be familiar to Cub fans.
Most career WAR, last name beginning with Z
45.2 Ben Zobrist
43.9 Carlos Zambrano
40.1 Tom Zachary
37.7 Ryan Zimmerman
33.7 Heinie Zimmerman
Of course, it must be noted that the 43.9 includes batting, and what Carlos Zambrano article would be complete without listing some of his batting feats!
Zambrano had 24 career home runs (all as a pitcher). That’s tied with Bob Gibson for 7th all-time for home runs as a pitcher (excluding pinch hit home runs). Bob Gibson retired after 1975 and since then, nobody else has over 20. The closest active competitor is Madison Bumgarner with 18.
Most home runs as a pitcher (1976-present)
24 Carlos Zambrano
18 Madison Bumgarner
16 Mike Hampton
12 Yovani Gallardo
12 Don Robinson
And here’s a fact, fluky but true: Zambrano has more NL Silver Slugger awards (3) than Javier Báez (1), Anthony Rizzo (1) & Kris Bryant (0) COMBINED. (How could Kris Bryant NOT win in 2016 when he won an MVP??)
The Silver Slugger award was introduced in 1980, so there are nearly 40 seasons to go by, but still the list of pitchers to win a Silver Slugger and throw a no-hitter in the same season consists of only two names.
2008 Carlos Zambrano
2016 Jake Arrieta
It has been a while since Carlos Zambrano took the mound in the Majors. His last appearance was in a game where Ozzie Guillen was his manager and Carlos Lee was his first baseman. It will probably remain his last appearance, but at least seeing his name in the news today has given us an opportunity to go back and remember a fun career.