GameCast: September 19th at St. Louis
It's the unluckiest man in baseball against the guy who should feel lucky to be healthy.
At the end of last season, Dempster's pending free agency status was the albatross in the room. It's safe to say that any reasonable Cub fan knew he wouldn't duplicate his 17-win, 2.96 ERA 2007 season, but he wasn't about to realistically drop off again. Besides, Jim Hendry has rightly displayed not just loyalty to his best players, but a willingness to reward their success and it probably would've sent the wrong message to allow Ryan Dempster to sign elsewhere. Still, what works out to be essentially a 4-year deal was pretty stupid.
This year, while making $9 million, Clownsevelt has dealt with bad outings, irregular run support, and a broken toe. He's still managed to get to 10 wins, though, and to get his ERA below 4. But I still surmise that he's done better than his numbers convey. Here's what I mean:
K/9: 2007 - 8.14, 2008 - 7.58
K/BB: 2007 - 2.46, 2008 - 2.40
These stats are important for two reasons. First, if something is physically wrong with a pitcher they will tend to fluctuate a lot. Second, that they are so similar tells us that something else is responsible for the higher-by-a-run ERA Dempster's sporting.
The answer to that is how many hits he's given up -- teams were batting .227 against him last year, and they're batting .264 against him in '09. This appears to have happened for a bunch of reasons, the most predominant being that Dempster has allowed for an increasing number of fly-balls -- resulting in a handful more homeruns, but nothing to seek therapy about -- while also surrendering more infield hits (from 5.1% in '08 to 6.4% this year). For comparison's sake, his opponent Chris Carpenter has an infield hit percentage this year of 5.2%.
So -- maybe it's Dempster's fault, as he's not keeping the ball down, but maybe it's also his infield's fault, as they're letting more through, and maybe it's also just bad luck. Either way, my feeling is that in 2010 he'll probably land somewhere between his '08 numbers and his '09 stats.
Regardless, in three starts this season against the Cardinals Dempster is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He hasn't dominated them, but they haven't tormented him either. It should be an interesting game ... assuming the pansy-ass Cubs offense can figure out how to hit Carpenter.