View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



March 2012



Chris Volstad: The Big Subtraction

Written by , Posted in General

What do we know about Chris Volstad? Well, for starters, he’s really tall. At 6’8”, he’ll have at least three inches on anyone else on the Cubs roster (and a full foot on the miniature Tony Campana). However, before visions of a young Randy Johnson start dancing in your head, you should probably keep this in mind: after three seasons, his numbers seem to indicate that he’s potentially not all that good.

As most (all?) of you know, Volstad was the Miami Marlins’ contribution in the “Addition by

Chris Volstad, the 25-year old, former first round pick joined the Cubs in the off-season as part of the "Addition by Subtraction" trade sending Carlos Zambrano to Miami

Subtraction” trade that sent perpetually distracting CarlosZambrano to South Beach. Getting rid of Big Z was the story of the trade, with Big V expected to be nothing more than a serviceable back of the rotation starter with a young arm, a smallish salary and enough potential to be an intriguing addition to a rebuilding team.

Quantitatively, what exactly does “not all that good” mean? How about a career ERA of 4.59 with a winning percentage to match at .451? Not good. How do fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings over his first three full seasons in the majors sound? Meh. Do you like a starting pitcher that has averaged nearly one and a half home runs per nine innings in two of three seasons? Me neither. Does a career WHIP of 1.4 get you excited? Of course not.

So, is there anything good to say about Volstad (other than that he’s really tall)? Absolutely…it’s not all doom and gloom. For a 25 year old, he has already racked up quite a bit of MLB experience and has proven to be able to stay healthy, logging at least 29 starts in each of his first three seasons. Durability was certainly not an attribute that was in surplus for the Cubs’ rotation last year. Additionally, while he doesn’t strike a lot of batters out, he also doesn’t award many freebies, walking 60 or few batters (right around 3 BB/9) during his first three full seasons.

At just 25 years old, Volstad still has time to realize the potential that made him a first round pick in the 2005 draft.  I’m a big fan of looking at age similarity scores on and dreaming about what could be (much like purchasing a lottery ticket and envisioning what I’m going to do with all that cash), and the comps for Volstad show there is definitely some reason to believe that he could wind up being a great pick-up for the Cubs. The following are the ten players that ranked most similar to Volstad through age 24:

  1. Jeff Weaver (986)
  2. Ben Sheets (981)
  3. Scott Olsen (977)
  4. Melido Perez (974)
  5. Frank Viola (969)
  6. Johnny Cueto (968)
  7. Don Cardwell (966)
  8. Kyle Lohse (964)
  9. Tom Glavine (964)
  10. Ryan Dempster (961)

What to expect in 2012? Based on the way he’s pitched thus far in the spring, I expect Volstad will end up with one of the final spots in the rotation when the Cubs head north for the summer and will be an unspectacular but consistent presence at the back of the rotation every five days between April and September. My dream scenario? His age 25 season is a hybrid of Ben Sheets’ who jumped from 6.4 to 10 K/9 and Tom Glavine who improved from 10 wins to 20. A season like that and we might start calling it the “Volstad Trade” instead of the “Zambrano Trade”.


    I don’t care if we got a water cooler in return for Bozo the Clown, he had to go.
    Actually, the Cubs should have looked into getting materials to renovate Wrigley in return for Bozo. I remember 2 Turkish soccer teams did that once. One team traded players to the other in return for cement bags to fix the stadium.

  • Eddie Von White

    Really nice job, Dustin.  I like the comparisons. I feel like I know Chris Volstad a lot better and you leave me with much optimism but with both feet still on the ground.

  • Doc Raker

    Volstad has only allowed 1 earned run in 10 innings so far in spring training. He features a mid 90’s fastball, a sharp breaking sinker in the low 90’s which induces many ground balls, a slider, changeup and curve. He attributes his early spring training success to being more comfortable on the mound and attacking the hitters. Anytime a pitcher realizes he can get outs by pitching to contact with his pitch good things happen. With 5 pitches he may still be learning his best pitch sequence and best pitch selection. This strikes me as the opposite of Smarja who needs to add a pitch to go from the pen to the rotation as Volstad may be better suited to drop a pitch. Three effective pitches is better than 2 effective pitches and 3 mediocre pitches. I will be looking for Volstad to concentrate on his most effective pitches and improve his numbers as a Cub.

    • Eddie Von White

       You have just added to my optimism.

    • Noah_I

      I haven’t been able to watch much spring training this season, but I haven’t seen the mid-90s straight fastball, either watching him or from the stats.  FanGraphs only registers one fastball for him,  the sinker, which it shows him throwing about 60% of the time.  His average fastball velocity for his career is 91.2, which is about where I’ve seen his slider.  Is the fastball something new that has been added this spring training? 

      Otherwise, I agree.  He could probably ditch the curve (which he doesn’t throw much anyways) and focus on being a sinker/slider/change up guy, and that might help.

      • Doc Raker

        I haven’t seen him pitch much. I read some scouting reports. I was interested to know what kind of pitches he throws so I looked up some scouting reports and interjected my interpretation. Maybe the mid 90’s is what he came into the league with but ended up  in the low 90’s. At 6’8″ you have to figure he has some potential. He is still young so I am optimistic his upsided hasn’t been seen yet.

    • Gymjok

      Going by memory,(which doesn’t always serve me well)
      his best chance for the biggest improvement,
      would be to figure out a pitch sequence/selection to get out the left-handed hitters.

  • Jedi

    Nicely done Dustin – the list made my stomach turn a bit when at the bottom I saw everyone’s favorite lucky pitcher.  Please, please let Volstad either be much better or much worse than Dempster.  I don’t care which, just don’t tease us off and on for parts of 8 seasons.

    • Doc Raker

      Really, as in which Ryan Dempster are they referring to, the Ryan Dempster that could get people out before he became so unlucky or the hang it in the hitting zone unlucky that it ended up on Waveland Avenue Ryan Dempster.

      • Gymjok

        Watch me wind up my Doc Raker doll and get him started-
        you mean the Ryan Dempster that is our 2012 opening day starter!

      • Doc Raker

        If Ryan Dempster starts opening day I am going to win some money betting against my Cubs, it will be the surest thing in the gaming world to ever exist.

  • cap’n obvious

    There is a lot of upside to Vostad.  Easily the best pickup by the Cubs in the last couple years.  How he does this season will tell me a lot about Bosio.  You just don’t run into guys that have this type of stuff and potential that often.  I’m not 100% sold, but this guy could be fun to watch.  Or excrutiatingly painful to watch.  Like the rest of the team, really.

  • flyslinger2

    How do you take him serious when the bill of his hat is still as flat as the moment it came off of the production line?

    • I was thinking the same thing Fly… I sort of suspect that someone did a crappy photoshop job

      • Eddie Von White

        That’s the way they wear them now. His hat is probably flatter than it was when it came off the production line.

      • At least he got the New Era sticker off the son of a bitch… that is the worst.

      • At least he got the New Era sticker off the son of a bitch… that is the worst.

  • mutantbeast

    If Volstad can win 12-15 games hed be well worth the trade. One thing against him is the Cubs atrociuos infield D. Hes like Jake Westbrook in a way, a lot more effective when he has a good defensive team behind him. Something he really didnt have in Florida.

    • 3.3

       Definitely… as a Marlins fan, I can tell you that Volstad is not at all good at missing bats. He’s not an awful pitcher, and I’d plug him in as a no. 4-5 starter any day, but he relies too much on a sinker that doesn’t sink enough. Control is decent but not special, and he certainly does hang a few too many pitches.

      If I were being optimistic, I’d point out two things: his ground ball to fly ball ratio improved last year, and his .317 BABIP in ’11 was kind of unlucky. He’s got the stuff to be a good mid-rotation pitcher, but he hasn’t put it together yet. Maybe he will, though. Maybe he will.

  • Doc Raker

    To win 15 games would be better than Z has done in recent years.