Big Z Gets 'F' From Brenly

By Chris Rewers on Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bob Brenly's in-game analysis tends to be bland, but whenever he appears as a guest on a radio show he tends to not pull any punches.

During a Saturday appearance with hosts Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood on Talkin' Baseball on WMVP-AM (1000), Brenly was very candid in breaking down Carlos Zambrano's poor performance against Pittsburgh on Friday, in-season managerial adjustments, and the struggles of Aramis Ramirez.

Zambrano (1-3), who is earning $17.9 as a setup reliever this season, was the losing pitcher in Friday's 10-6 loss to Pittsburgh after allowing a tie-breaking three-run homer to Garrett Jones. Zambrano's ERA entering Monday's action is 7.07.

After the game, Zambrano said that he has accepted his role as a reliever, but Brenly believes Big Z's performance said otherwise.

(A side note concerning Zambrano: On WMVP's Chicago GameDay on Sunday morning, I heard a host criticize Big Z for "towing the company line." That's bull.

(It's a no-win situation for Zambrano. If he tells reporters that he hates being a reliever, he's divisive. If he says he'll help the team anyway he can, "he's towing the company line.")

Some excerpts from the Brenly interview:

Levine: What was your read on Carlos' outing (Friday)?

Brenly: Without knowing whether he's 100 percent physically, assuming he's okay physically and there's no issues there, it just looked like a guy that was disinterested in his job. The velocity on his fastball was way down. His command of all of his pitches was spotty, at best. He made a lot of mistakes over the middle of the plate against a very aggressive-swinging ballclub that you don't really have to throw strikes to. And that's something Carlos as a starting pitcher knows. You don't have to throw strikes to these Pirates hitters. You can nibble around the edges and still get easy outs.

Hood: How much are Zambrano's struggles - how much is physical and how much is mental - with him being moved into a new role?

Brenly: That's the $91 million question, isn't it? You have to believe given his status on this ballclub and in this city, with this organization as the No. 1 starter, for as long as he's been the No. 1 starter, to suddenly find yourself pitching basically in middle relief at this point, has to be a blow to his ego. To his credit, Mount Carlos did not erupt when this happened. He expressed his displeasure initially, but then he said he'd do whatever for the good of the team. I respect that from Carlos. I think it could have gone really badly had he approached it differently.

Levine: When your team doesn't hit for a long period of time and then you start trying to manipulate bullpens late in the game ... you're almost always going to look bad. When you want to keep a starting pitcher in, it blows up in your face. When you bring in a (reliever) too early, it blows up in your face. Pretty much because you're not scoring runs.

Brenly: It becomes more magnified because you're not scoring those runs. The Cubs have had their defensive issues this season, that makes it a lot tougher on the starting pitcher and the bullpen. I talk a lot about the rhythm of the game. Sometimes you can watch a player and tell he's a half a step behind. You can watch a guy at the plate and tell he's a tenth of a second off on his swing. And the same thing can happen to managers. There were times I felt I was a little behind the game, but you try to do something. You try to shake up the lineup. You try to shake yourself up to try to be a little more ahead of the game. And when you do that, things tend to get a little bit easier. You anticipate things a little better. Your players are more well prepared. Right now as a collective unit, I think the Cubs are struggling with finding a rhythm.

Hood: Would you say that the Cubs are a D-Lee and Ramirez away from being a more consistent ballclub? They have seven guys hitting over .300. Does it come down to Lee and Ramirez hitting the ball, and then maybe the whole ballclub starts to get better?

Brenly: Certainly that would be a huge step in the right direction. We all know the effect Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee can have on a ballgame when they're swinging the bats well. What we've seen this year a lot, especially with Ramirez, is that teams show very little respect for Aramis Ramirez. They go right after him in situations where they have a base open. They're just pitching him away, away, away, letting him get himself out. We have seen some signs over the last four or five ballgames that he's driving the ball to the opposite field a little better. He's laying off some of the pitches he was chasing earlier in the season ... This team is built to slug. They're not going to manufacture runs, especially against good pitchers, but they'll win their share of ballgames simply by outslugging the opposition.

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