Friday, March 14, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/14/08

Roster Spot 17- P- Ryan Dempster #46
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right


Sigh.

I knew I'd eventually have to do the Dempster article, and I'd have to face the two polar opposites of Cubs fans regarding Dempster:

1) He's a complete and total abomination of a pitcher who only made it as a closer for three seasons due to luck, he's not funny at all and should never do a Harry Caray impersonation ever again, he sucked as a starter the first time around and shouldn't be tried again, and he should be shot.

2) He's a great closer who just shouldn't be used in non-save situations, he converted a higher percentage of his saves last year than Mariano Rivera, he's fan friendly, and he is hysterical, I love his impersonation of Harry Caray.

The simple fact is, I don't like Dempster. Even in '05, when he had a good era and went 33 of 35 in saves, I never trusted him. I didn't feel confident with him at any point last year. But I don't hate him. He was a serviceable stop-gap closer between the time Joe Borowski's arm and LaTroy Hawkin's brain exploded, and Kerry Wood/Carlos Marmol being ready to take over the job. I think even if the Cubs weren't trying to make him a starter he'd have already been replaced as a closer, not so much for being ineffective but for not being Marmol or Wood. What all Cubs fans seem to agree upon is that Dempster should NOT be made into a starter again. It's pretty easy to see why when one look at his stats as a starter:

162 games started (what a coincidence), 988.2 innings pitched, 6.1 innings per start, 51-58, 4.99 ERA, 809 strikeouts, 517 walks, 1.56 WHIP.

In his 6 games as a starter for the Cubs in 2005: 33.2 innings pitched, 5.5 innings per start, 1-3, 5.34 ERA, 36 strikeouts, 22 walks, 1.77 WHIP.

So really, umm, those numbers suck. The Cubs seemed determined as hell to keep Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall from locking up rotation spots when Jason had an ERA that was a 1/3 of a run better last year than Dempster's career ERA, and Sean's was over a full run lower. Why they seem so determined on giving Ryan a chance to give up runs in the early innings rather than the 9th I don't know. Maybe they're thinking that they'll have the second coming of John Smoltz and he'll be able to be a better starter after a stint as a closer than he was before. Except Smoltz was a damn good starter the first time, a damn good closer, and an even better starter after. Dempster was a mediocre at best starter, then a mediocre at best closer, and most likely a mediocre at best starter again. Sure, Ryan has the talent. His fastball is good, his slider can be devastating when working, but with his high number of walks and his high WHIP he just doesn't make sense in the starting or closing roles. Make him a long reliever and maybe everyone's happy. Or trade him. I don't know.

The Cubs point to Ryan's spring numbers as hope that he'll prove an effective back of the rotation starter, as he's gone 2-0 with a 3.00 era in 3 starts this spring. Cub fans might as wel latch on to this hope as well, because its looking like he's gonna be there that first week of April.

Sigh.