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@bullpenbrian would it be wrong to wish for a revamp of the pitching staff? I think we have the highest era in the majors?
— Brook Fox (@fox_brook) May 1, 2012
Wishing for a revamping of the Cubs pitching staff is not wrong at all. The troubling part, however, is the organization is void of better options for the time being.
As of this posting the Cubs team ERA of 4.21 ranks 22/30 in the majors. The starting staff’s ERA is 4.20 and ranks 20th in the majors. The Cubs bullpen ERA is a tick higher at 4.23, ranking 22nd in MLB.
Any way you shape it, that’s not very good. But to be fair, the Cubs starting rotation doesn’t deserve much blame for the team’s (8-15) start to the season.
Matt Garza & Ryan Dempster have been simply terrific. Jeff Samardzija is holding his own and Paul Maholm has come on strong winning his last two starts.
But that’s where the good ends and the bad begins.
The Cubs have only two wins to show for it, but its starting staff is off to a terrific start.
Chicago ranks second in MLB for innings pitched by its starters (46.2), trailing only Seattle’s (48.0). And had it not been for Paul Maholm’s abrupt outing on Tuesday, 4.0 IP, the Cubs likely would lead all of baseball in this category.
It’s an uplifting sign for a club struggling to score runs and a life-saver from its bullpen ranked last in the NL. But as long as the starting pitching holds strong, the Cubs have a chance to creep back towards the .500 mark.
I had the wonderful privilege of joining staff sergeant Josh Helms as his honorary guest for Opening Day.
He’s a proud father of two, loving husband and member of our armed forces, including having served three tours of duty in the Middle East.
Of course, I’d be remised not to point out Josh’s faithful commitment to Cubdom, of which we discussed at length while eating hot dogs, drinking Old Style and shivering our way through the Cubs lid-lifter–despite the outcome, as Pat Foley would say.
The tickets, behind home plate in section 120, came courtesy of Cubs left-hander Paul Maholm, who raffled them off through Twitter last Thursday.
Maholm was also kind enough to speak with Josh & I beforehand this afternoon near the Cubs dugout. A class move from the southpaw, indeed.
As Bill Murray whipped the fans into a frenzy with his ceremonial first pitch sprint around the bases, I knew we were in for an unforgettable day at Wrigley.
Even if Dale Sveum isn’t saying it, the Cubs Opening Day start was Ryan Dempster’s to lose.
That’s the only way to explain Sveum’s ‘open’ competition for the rotation’s No.1 spot between Dempster and Matt Garza.
Otherwise, Sveum has a no-brainer decision selecting Garza, a 28-year-old stud who was the Cubs best starter in 2011, vs. the soon to be 35-year-old Dempster coming off a career-worse 14-loss season.
It recently occurred to me that all my favorite Cubs players are now former Cubs players.
Aramis moved north to Milwaukee. Pena returned south to the Rays. Ted Lilly is still with L.A.. Derrek Lee is straddling the line of retirement, Jim Edmonds is already there. Not to mention, no more De-Ro, Sweet Lou or Ryno for that matter.
So the question becomes, who is my favorite current Cub?
My answer: the funny man from north of the boarder, Ryan Dempster, who I’ve long been a fan of for all he does both on and off the field.
Who’s your No.1 Cub?
Here’s my voting for the Cubs’ 2011 Cy Young Award.
1. Sean Marshall: Set the Cubs’ single-season ‘Holds’ record with 34. Allowed just 19 earned runs in 75.2 IP, arguably the Cubs’ 2011 MVP as well.
2. Matt Garza: His 10 wins are a poor reflection of his overall performance, nearly reached 200 IP (198.0), and 200 strikeouts (197), made 31 starts with a 3.32 ERA. Should easily have 3 to 4 more wins.
3. Ryan Dempster: Led the Cubs in both starts (34) and Quality Starts (21), topped the 200-innings mark (202.1), and registered 191 strikeouts.
4. Jeff Samardzija: Made 75 appearances, all from the bullpen, posting a 2.97 ERA and 8.90 K/9, won 8 games vs. 4 losses, got stronger as the season wore on.
5. Kerry Wood: Posted a 10.06 K/9, had 21 Holds, 1.29 WHIP, and 3.35 ERA in 55 outings.
Someone should have told the Cubs Rodrigo Lopez was pitching again Tuesday night. Then maybe, Chicago wouldn’t have wasted another gutsy performance by Ryan Dempster, who threw 128 pitches over seven innings allowing just two runs, but suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Reds.
True to form, the Cubs offense scratched one measly run across the plate for its staff ace, which has been a season-long trend of futility with Demps on the mound.
Dempster’s 4.33 runs of support per game is worst on the staff, with Matt Garza a close second at 4.37.
Victory aside, it must have been a frustrating night for Randy Wells and Matt Garza.
Both tough-luck starters watched from the bench as the Cubs’ offense torched the Reds for 12 runs on 16 hits.
The 12 runs scored Monday night ties the Cubs’ season-high set against the Brewers on June 16 and provided more than enough offense for Rodrigo Lopez (5-6) to pick up the win despite allowing five earned runs and four longballs through 5.1 innings–Not exactly your quality start.
That’s clearly unfair from a pitcher’s standpoint considering Wells and Garza both tossed seven strong innings on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, but ended up with a combined five runs of support and two no-decisions.
Ryan Dempster is quietly putting together another strong season.
He made his 30th start on Wednesday night against Cincinnati, is on pace for 200-plus innings (176.2) and has fanned 169 batters vs. 64 walks.
If there’s any glaring weakness at all, it’s having issued 20 home runs. Otherwise, Demps is earning every bit of his $13.5M salary.
Despite going winless over his last five starts, Dempster is pitching better than his (10-11) record indicates.
He’s allowed 3 ER or less in seven of his last eight outings, but has fallen victim to the staff’s worst run support–4.32 runs per game. That equals two runs or less of support in nearly half his starts (14), which is tough on any starter.
With four more starts this season Dempster can match his total from last season (34). Although his 15 wins from a year ago is out of reach, give him two wins in his last four starts and he finishes the campaign with 12 victories.
Not bad for a starter whose team is on pace for 90-plus losses.