2009 Recap: Aaron Heilman
On January 28th, 2009, the Cubs pulled a deal off with the Mariners that would send them relief pitcher Aaron Heilman for Ronny Cedeno and Garret Olson. Olson had been acquired by the Cubs in a deal with Baltimore for outfield "sensation" Felix Pie, whereas Cedeno -- like Dorothy's Scarecrow -- had been sent to Chicago perhaps from the Wizard, minus a brain. In other words, it was a pretty sweet deal. The only problem was that Heilman was bouncing back from a season of sucktacular play and there was no promise he'd be the reliever of a mid 3.00's ERA ever again.
All told, Heilman's '09 was the mixed bag we should have expected of him. On one end of the spectrum, he delivered 72.1 innings, walking 34, striking out 65, and posting a respectable-if-not-fantastic ERA of 4.11. On the other end, Heilman allowed more players to score than that allegedly-crazy* bar slut with Mark Grace's name tattooed on her back.
(*allegedly, I said!)
The league average for inherited runners who scored in 2009 was 30%.
It would have been lower than that across the board, except for
Heilman. Heilman had the tendency in '09 to step onto the mound without his testicles, and so anytime Lou called on him to put out a fire he brought his favorite can of gasoline with him. I know, a lot of analogies, but holy shit this guy sucked.
Heilman inherited 37 runners and he allowed 17 of them to touch home plate. Seriously. Ouch. On a Cubs team that struggled to score runs, and particularly on a Cubs team that had so many one-run decisions, it cannot be argued that Heilman's craptivity resulted in more losses than his 4-4 record communicates. Consider instead how his 6 blown saves was second-worst on the team behind only Kevin Gregg, a closer who has caused such ill-will that metro-sexuals can no longer wear their formerly-hip Oakley flak-jackets in Chicago, 'lest they expect an ass-whupping reprisal from bitter Cub fans.
Of course, this might have never happened had Heilman been awarded the 5th starting gig back in the spring of '09. Based on his Spring Training numbers, he undeniably earned a shot, but Lou played the loyalty card and tapped Sean Marshall instead. And much as Ryan Dempster was a mediocre closer but a lights-out starter in '09, who knows? Heilman might have been slightly less aggravating. Or he might've lasted 5 starts, gotten his ass kicked into a demotion, and given us a slightly shortened season as a mediocre reliever.
Still, go back and consider the two players he was acquired for. Garrett Olson managed to pitch 80.1 innings between splitting time in the rotation and bullpen for the Mariners, where he was able to drop his ERA more than 1 run from his '08 production -- from 6.65 to 5.60. And Ronny Cedeno a .208 hitter with a .593 OPS -- and that was only after he'd been sent to Pittsburgh. Up until that July 29th trade, Ronny Ce was a .167 hitter with a .504 OPS. And while Olson posted a 3.90 ERA in his limited time as a reliever, who knows if he would've been able to maintain it -- or his 29% inherited runner scoring rate -- over a full season?
So, Aaron Heilman's motto should be this: so bad that I want to punch my mother in the face, but a damned sight better than Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson. 'nuff said.