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Victor Zambrano just isn't as bad as you think he is

Mike SteffanosSunday, February 26, 2006
By Mike Steffanos


I know it's a statement that's going to earn me a lot of snickers. It's just not in style in the community of Mets fans to actually admit you really believe that Victor is going to be a solid contributor to the Mets this year. Even my Mom is skeptical about this, and she generally gives me credit for being a lot smarter than I really am.

Even those that acknowledge that Zambrano pitched well for a 10 week period last summer simply point to the fact that even when Victor was pitching better he wasn't winning games. A friend of mine likes to say that Zambrano can always find a way to lose. What isn't generally conceded by his critics is that Victor had the misfortune to pitch well during the part of the year when the Mets struggled the most offensively. I have a small sample of 5 games below, which featured 3 no decisions which the Mets eventually lost and 2 outright Zambrano losses:

  • June 15, At Oakland (ND) 7.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 K, 2 BB
    Zambrano pitches good enough to win, but the Mets can only manage 2 runs themselves, and lose on a walk-off hit by the immortal Marco Scutaro.

  • June 22, At Philly (ND) 6 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 3 BB
    Zabrano pitches 6 strong innings, Ring and Heilman give up 6 runs in the seventh, Mets lose.

  • July 3, Marlins (L) 8 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 1 K, 2 BB
    Zabrano deserves better in strong 8 inning outing, but Dontrelle Willis dominates the Mets.

  • July 8, At Pittsburgh (ND) 8 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 1 BB
    In perhaps Zabrano's best start of the year, he leaves with a 5-1 lead which Heilman and Looper blow. Mets lose in 10.

  • July 16, Braves (L) 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 6 K, 4 BB
    Zabrano pitches well, Mets can't score against Tim Hudson coming off the DL and the terrible Braves bullpen.

If Pedro pitched these games, no one would be questioning that he should have won all of them. Victor gets no such benefit of the doubt.

In an article in the Journal News, John Delcos editorializes on a quote from Zambrano:

"I don't think I pitched that badly," an unconvincing Zambrano said. "There were times I pitched well but didn't win."

Why was he unconvincing, John, did you even check the facts? There were indeed a good number of times that Victor pitched well enough to win, and didn't.

There were also plenty of times that Victor struggled, both early and late in the year. I'm not predicting a Cy Young award, but I do honestly believe Zambrano is poised to become a solid starter for the Mets in 2006. As Rick Peterson points out in the article, last year was about Zambrano coming back from an injury and regaining strength. Victor feels confident that being able to pitch winter ball this year will make a huge difference coming into the season:

It was very important to me. It kept my arm in shape. I feel really good now.

I just have a feeling about this guy. I believe that Mets fans are going to be pleasantly surprised this year by what he contributes, and maybe even eventually offer him a pardon for the crime of not being Scott Kazmir.

Mets.com: Toe far, toe good
Marty Noble has an interesting article that goes into a lot of detail on the mechanics of what caused Pedro Martinez' toe problem in the first place:

A person familiar with pitchers' foot movements described them as Martinez began throwing. He noted that as Martinez completes his right foot push (usually off the rubber), the foot twists violently to the right (or outside of the foot), that the outside of the ankle actually touches the ground before the ankle snaps back and that the top of Martinez's shoe then hits the ground with audible impact before it is dragged forward for about eight inches.

The word "violent" was spoken repeatedly when he and others described Martinez's foot movements. Peterson acknowledged that all power pitchers twist their ankles in a similar manner, but none that he has seen with force comparable to what Martinez exerts.

"It's the difference between high winds and a tornado," the coach said.

I didn't really understand what was responsible for Martinez' infamous toe problem before reading this article, which also does a good job of explaining the mechanics that allow a fairly small man to be one of the best power pitchers in baseball.

Newsday: The left side
David Lennon has a terrific, must-read feature on Jose Reyes and David Wright.

Daily News: Jose
Adam Rubin has another good feature on Jose Reyes, and his hard work in becoming fluent in English.

Newark Star-Ledger: Say what's on your mind, Billy
Don Burke interviews Billy Wagner, who proves that he has no future as a diplomat after his baseball career ends. The reception that Beltran received in Houston last year will seem like an amateur effort compared to the love fest Billy will enjoy in Philadelphia, but somehow I don't think he'll give a crap.

Newsday: Time to Move On
John Heyman takes another shot at Anna Benson in his column today. He can't seem to let go -- I wonder if she reminds him of someone that hurt him at one time in his life. Turn the page, dude...

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