Not to be overly discouraged by Carlos Zambrano's last outing -- when he was knocked out in the second inning after giving up eight runs on six hits -- the Cubs have trotted out the old high school excuse that his grandmother died.
Yes, and the dog ate his homework.
Without intending to trivialize the genuine sadness of Zambrano's loss of a loved one, other reasons than a death in the family must be considered in order to get the full picture of
Zambrano's potential for leading the Cubs to the World Series.
True, Zambrano returned from the funeral in his native Venezuela suffering from lack of rest, a skewed biological clock and weakness in his lower extremities. That's certainly plausible.
And though he pitched a no-hitter in his previous outing, the fact remains that the 27-year-old, six-five, 250-pound fireballer has been been putting a great deal of stress on his multi-million-dollar right arm, and thus has been given anti-inflammatory medicines to ease discomfort in his shoulder. The medication suggests he has torn muscle fibers that potentially may continue to diminish his strength and durability between now and the end of this long, long season.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella subsequently has added two more starters to his rotation, the idea being to rest his regular starters in preparation for the post-season. Prudent? Yes. A red flag? Maybe.
One of the more telling statistics about Zambrano is his 7.43 ERA in August, after which the team noticed Zambrano throwing abnormally because of stress and fatigue. Though Zambrano continues to hold the league to less than a .250 batting average, with a 14-6 record and a 3.77 overall ERA, he has been giving up nearly a hit an inning in addition to a walk every other inning.
Averaging six inning per start in his 29 appearances, his overall performance must be considered superior, the question remains as to just exactly how much he has left between now and the end of October.