A friend e-mailed me last week with the following question:
Who do you think has had the better career, Josh Beckett or Carlos Zambrano?
Now, when someone asks you a question like that, you always know the answer. In this case, Zambrano, because if it was Beckett, there'd be no reason to ask.
But while my answer was based on lazy logic, his explanation was far more thorough, and I thought, interesting enough to share:
Here's the breakdown:
Zambrano has more top 10 CY Young finishes (3-2) In Zambranos worst season (last year), he posted a 81 ERA. This was by far the worst of his career, with his second-worst coming in 2007 (117 ERA). Beckett has had seasons of 99, 95 and 75 (for the Sox in 2010) Zambranos best season? 2004 -- when he went 16-8 with a 2.75 ERA and an ERA of 160. Becketts best season? Statistically it was last year 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA and an ERA of 147. (Side note: After Becketts September 5 start, his ERA stood at 2.49. Over his last three starts, 2 losses and 1 no-decision, his ERA increased 0.4 runs per game -- resulting from 12 ER in 13.1 IP -- in his last two starts against Baltimore.) Zambrano has been much more consistent and has had many fewer bad seasons than Beckett. Zambrano's career ERA is 122. Beckett's is 115.
So there it is. Pretty compelling argument, right? Obviously, this doesn't include Beckett's two World Series rings, and more importantly, the legendary individual performances that earned him both. (For his career, Beckett is 7-3 in in 13 career playoff starts, with a 3.07 ERA. On the other hand, Zambrano is 0-2 in five career playoff starts with a 4.34 ERA.)
Also, if you had to choose one of these guys -- in their primes -- to start one game, you'd have definitely chosen Beckett. Not to mention, that while Beckett hasn't always been the best clubhouse influence, he looks like Ghandi (huge glue guy on India's gold medal winning team at the 1918 Far Eastern Games) compared to Zambrano.
But the numbers don't lie. These two are a lot closer than you probably ever imagined -- at least April through September.