Before you really offer up a preview of Ryan Dempster, I think it deserves mentioning that Jim Hendry does deserve a massive amount of credit for the signing. A quick history less on Demp. He was originally selected in the 3rd round of the 1995 draft by the Texas Rangers, where he spent a small amount of time in the minors before being traded to the Marlins where he made 121 starts and compiled a 4.64 ERA before being traded again to the Cincinnati Reds. While in Cincinnati his ERA rose to 6.54 in his final season with Reds before being shut down in August to have Tommy John surgery. Shortly after he was released by the Reds. Hendry had the foresight to sign Dempster, while he was still rehabbing, to a minor league contract with the hope of mining a gold nugget from a scrap heap. Remarkably, Dempster would not only pitch in 2004, but would pitch well, just 12 months removed from the surgery. In 20+ innings of work out of the pen, Demp compiled and ERA of 3.92 and picked up a pair of saves. In 2005, after starting 6 games, Dempster was named the closer for the Cubs, replacing LaTroy Hawkins. He collected 33 saves in 35 opportunities, the best save percentage in the league; in both blown saves, he collected the win. He is the only Cub and one of just three players ever to both start a game and collect 30 saves in the same season.
Since signing with the Cubs he’s gone on to win 62 games and save 87 all while posting an ERA under 4.00. It’s not “Ace” type stuff, but it’s certainly production far more than anyone could have expected when he signed that minor league deal.
I chose to do the season preview on Ryan Dempster because I’m passionate that 2012 will show a significant upgrade over last season’s results for Dempster. In fact, Cap’n Obvious and I even went so far as to put a little wager on it. While we haven’t yet seen the lines on TopBet Sportsbook, there is a bet, though the terms of the bet have yet to be discussed. It’s sure to be the talk all throughout the summer around the water cooler at work. The time is now to decide who’s side you’re on.
Cap’n and I chose five categories and then set a number for each. On each stat, I have chosen the under, while he has chosen the over. The table below details Dempster’s 2011 numbers, his career average, and the 2012 over / under numbers for the bet for quality starts, Home runs, base on balls and strikeouts per 9 IP as well as ERA.
As you can see, the Cap’n was more than generous in the numbers he gave me to choose from. Looking the ERA, I don’t see a way he’s over 4.90. It’s never happened for him as a Cub. In fact, the last time it happened to him, he was pitching out of the bullpen. Since that time, as a starting pitcher, he’s posted an ERA under 4.00 up until last season.
Looking at the ration numbers for home runs, strikeouts and walks, Dempster has been very consistent as a starter. For the Cubs, in the last four seasons he’s been a full time starter he’s posted numbers of 0.9 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 8.3 K’s/9. To think he’d suddenly drop in production that significantly seems ludicrous to me. I’ll gladly take those categories as well, which leads to the final one, which is the biggest lock. In 2011, Dempster posted a quality start percentage of 62%. Cap’n has been kind enough to set the number at….wait for it….a league average number of 49%. Poor poor Cap’n. This one is a sure lock.
All of that leads to what we should be expecting going forward for Dempster. He exercised his player option before this season to return for $14 million in 2012, plus an amount from 2010 that was deferred over two years in 2011 and 2012. Odds are he will not be re-signed after the season so while here his role needs to be one of leadership and upper rotation production. We need to see the return to good production to avoid the embarrassment that was 2011. I believe we’ll see it…wanna bet?