2009 Recap: Randy Wells
Along with the Rejuvenation of Derrek Lee, Randy Wells was the nicest surprise of 2009. When you consider that our best story as about a pitcher without "stuff" that ended up a whopping two games over .500, this should tell you a lot about the abortion of a season we just witnessed.
I almost feel like writing three short summaries on Wells: one as a Kool-Aid swiller, in which I compare Wells favorably to Greg Maddux: one as the Uncouth Sloth, where I make note of his scraped knuckles which attests to his lack of evolutionary genetics; and a final middle of a road version that points out his innings-eating ordinariness.
After all, what do you make of a guy who made nobody's prospect lists; was not mentioned in any of the preseason Peavy speculation; was never on anyone's radar as the Savior of the Cubs (the way the Great Starlin Castro is being portrayed currently, for example)? He was brought up in semi-desperation when the rest of the staff suffered their spate of small injuries this May, and battled like a sumbitch in his first several starts, including a couple of sure wins pissed away by our bullpen.
I don't need to tell any of you that Wells, physically, doesn't possess ANYTHING special whatsoever; he isn't a "stuff" guy like Zambrano and Harden, does not have Lilly's intensity, nor the brawn and strength of Dempster. He seems to operate with his location and control, much like a certain Mr. Maddux during his early years - except that Greg was rocked for 14 losses and an ERA well over 5.
Wells deserved somewhat better than his 12-10 record - if we had any sort of closing ability and clutch hitting, Wells could be sitting more like 16-7, so when I evaluate him, I take this into consideration. Which is why I am spinning in circles right now - a 16-7 pitcher IS someone special in today's game, but there isn't anything whatsoever in his game that suggests that he may go 16-7 next year, or ever again.
He died down the stretch, which is actually understandable when you consider this was his first full big-league season, teams naturally adjust to a pitcher his second trip thru the league, and this was probably his biggest workload ever. So there is hope that next spring, he will be at full strength and as good as he will ever be. That's OK, right? But exactly what is "good as he ever will be" for Randy Wells?
The Kool Aid Klub probably expects him to battle his way to 16-18 wins next year. The pessimist in me simply can't shake the trauma of the cautionary tales of Jeff Pico, Jeremi Gonzalez and Frank Castillo, who initially excelled only to sink into mediocrity, or worse. But, as realistically as I can look at this, I see a guy who can be a valuable 3rd or 4th starter, as long as his mental toughness holds out. He never gives up on a hitter; responds positively to adversity, and as a home-grown product that cost us a low draft pick, is the gravy at Thanksgiving dinner.
It isn't going to be the thing that compels the family to come to the table, but without it, things sure would suck. I'll take some Wells on my spuds, my dressing, and sure, just pour it everywhere, thanks.
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