Cubs, Cards & Aces From A(dam) to (Big) Z

Chicago Tribune blogumnist Steve Rosenbloom is absolutely correctAdam Wainwright, not Carlos Zambrano, is pitching like someone worth $18 million per year.

However, Rosenbloom is completely off base with his comparison.

Comparing Wainwright and Big Z is like comparing the a street baller and a prep school player.

Consider this.

Wainwright and Zambrano are the same age, yet Big Z has a head start of four seasons and 89 starts.  So, why is Wainwright outperforming Zambrano?  It all comes down to preparation.

Waino (seriously, one of the weakest nicknames in baseball) was drafted in 2000 and spent a good chunk of his developmental years in the Atlanta Braves organization.  Yes, the same organization that developed John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.  After being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, Wainwright learned under the watchful eye of Dave Duncan.  The Cards' pitching coach has saved more arms than Barry Bonds' hardware and has extended more careers than HGH.

Wainwright's steady career path mirrors one of a student who enrolled into Harvard, then transferred to M.I.T.  Zambrano's career path is something like a JUCO transfer who bounces from team-to-team looking for a place to fit.

Zambrano was signed by the Cubs organization in 1997 out of Venezuela at the age of 16.  At that point, Wainwright was just receiving his drivers license and mackin' on high school girls in his mom's station wagon in search of a prom date.

As for Zambrano's mentors ... um ... Larry Rothschild?  Dusty Baker?  That's like learning strip club etiquette from Pacman Jones.

The Cards brought Wainwright slowly through the ranks, starting him as a reliever before converting him into a full-time starter.

Over the last three years, Wainwright has posted a 43-22 record and 3.16 earned run average over the last three years.  Zambrano is 40-25 in the same time span with a 3.87 ERA.

And while Wainwright holds the edge this season, something must be said for Zambrano, who has made at least 31 starts since the 2003 season and 193 overall.  The 2009 season marks Big Z's first injury marred campaign, while Wainwright already had his own disabled list issues in 2008 thanks to a busted finger.

If Wainwright can start 30 games per year over the next six years, throw 1,264 innings, then I'll give him the props he deserves.

But if you want to crown him, well, crown his ass!