It’s time the Cubs removed Chris Volstad from the starting rotation and replaced him with Travis Wood.
Wood’s lone outing this season, a quality six inning start of 3-runs on 3-hits during last Sunday’s 4-3 win against Los Angeles, is better than anything Volstad has accomplished this season.
Meanwhile, Volstad’s inability to pitch out of trouble and avoid the big inning was in full effect Saturday afternoon as he allowed six earned runs in six innings, five of which scored in the sixth inning.
More to the point, it was exactly the kind of poor performance the Cubs didn’t need in the aftermath of Friday’s brutal 8-7 loss in 13-innings. But Volstad, as has been the case all season, failed to deliver.
Volstad is now winless in seven starts (18 dating back to last season) with a 6.92 ERA. He’s shown virtually zero improvement from his first outing to his last and the Cubs have yet to win a single game behind him.
I’m not suggesting the Cubs give up on the 25-year-old, but I am in favor of Volstad working out his kinks in the bullpen or sending him to Triple-A Iowa, albeit at the risk of losing him on waivers.
Perhaps only Carlos Marmol’s troubles has perplexed me more than Volstad’s this year. Take away the one bad frame Volstad allows each outing and he’s been a serviceable starter.
So what makes Volstad so vulnerable to the big inning?
The great Tony La Russa believes there are six ways a starting pitcher becomes vulnerable, the first three of which come at specific points during the game.
1. The first batter of the game reaches base safely.
2. Two quick outs in an inning and the pitcher lets up.
3. The fifth inning. ‘Decision Time’.
5. Mental & physical fatigue
6. Adversity. ‘Bases loaded & no outs’.
Volstad, not surprisingly, fell victim to each of the first three vulnerabilities Saturday afternoon.
Nyjer Morgan led off the game with a double and eventually scored to wipe out the Cubs early 1-0 lead.
Secondly, after recording two quick outs in the bottom of the third, Volstad allowed Jonathan Lucroy’s single to right field. That brought Ryan Braun to the plate, who fortunately grounded out sharply into a force play.
Third, despite escaping the fifth inning unscathed, Volstad began the sixth still in position for a decision with the score tied 1-1. But then adversity struck.
The Brewers put runners on the corners with no outs before Aramis Ramirez grounded into a force play that scored the innings first run.
The next batter, Corey Hart, wrapped a double to left field putting runners at second & third. Volstad then intentionally walked Travis Ishikawa to load the bases for Edwin Maysonet, who gladly deposited his first career grand slam over the left field fence–Big inning. Game over.
We can only speculate if Volstad is guilty of unpreparedness, or was suffering from mental & physical fatigue. That aside, it’s fairly obvious Volstad is vulnerable on several levels.
Travis Wood, however, is a more than comparable replacement and certainly gives the Cubs an equal, if not greater, chance at winning some ballgames.
Right now, that’s not something Chris Volstad appears capable of doing.