Tag Archives: Ryan Dempster

Brewers Series Preview

The pitching matchups for this weekend’s series favor the Cubs: Harden/Looper, Zambrano/Bush, and Dempster/Suppan. I probably don’t need to provide you with graphs or numbers to get you to believe that – avoiding Parra and Gallardo is a real boon, so thanks for setting your rotation up that way for no real reason, Ken Macha.

However, I will give you both. First, the starters’ career ERAs versus the other team. For Harden, this is in fairly few innings, for everyone else, it’s considerably more:

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The Cubs have the edge there in all three matchups. The only thing that surprises me is that it’s not more lopsided. But just because Suppan has a good ERA against the Cubs doesn’t mean he’s actually a good pitcher, I guess.

Next, we have performance against the Brewers’ starters for current Cubs. I restricted it to ten plate appearances minimum, which is a threshold a lot of Cubs can’t meet. I guess it’s not that surprising, given that this team has turned over starters in two outfield spots, second base, shortstop, and catcher since the start of 2007. That makes me wonder if that kind of turnover is precedented for a team that’s won its division in the same span. But on to the graph! 

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Two Cubs have had some success against Looper: Fukudome and Soto. Not surprisingly, they’re both barely over the 10 PA cutoff. And Soto won’t be playing tomorrow, so that doesn’t really help us anyway. Ramirez and Lee have hammered Bush, with Soriano’s line looking lackluster only by comparison. And Theriot and Lee have both gotten to Suppan in the past, though if they’re the only two who get to him Sunday night, I’ll be disappointed.

Here’s the Brewers versus the Cubs’ starters. In spite of being a young team, they’ve had less turnover than the Cubs in the last few years. But due to Cubs turnover, no Brewer has the ten minimum PAs versus Harden.

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I think the conclusions to be drawn here are pretty obvious: Prince Fielder is a good hitter. Jason Kendall for some reason owns Ryan Dempster (in a surprisingly large number of plate appearances). Zambrano has had a little trouble containing Braun, Dempster hasn’t. Corey Hart wears sunglasses at night.

This series looks good for the Cubs, although the second series of the year doesn’t really matter. Off the top of my head, I think the Cubs lost four of six or four of seven against the Brewers in Chicago the first month of the season last year, and yet they ran away with the division. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to see them jump out to a lead in the division early on.

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Five predictions for 2009

With the Cubs’ season set to start today, I have five predictions I’ll make before the first pitch:

1. Ryan Theriot won’t regress very far.

I know a lot of people around Cubs blogs don’t like Theriot, and there’s a good reason for it. A lot of Cubs fans massively overrate the guy’s abilities, to an annoying degree. But his 2008 season, where he got on base at a .387 clip, wasn’t a fluke. His numbers might decline a little, because he’s probably not going to walk significantly more than he strikes out again. But for the last two years, Theriot has hit 21% and 23.2% of his balls in play for line drives. Last year his .340 BABIP was more or less in line with what you’d expect based on that line drive number, but in 2007 his .289 BABIP was 40 points below where you’d expect it to be. If Theriot’s BABIP had been about what you’d expect, in 2007, he’d have OBP’ed .353. He should do about that next year – maybe higher if his seemingly-improved patience wasn’t a fluke. We may have to accept that while Theriot doesn’t do a lot of things well, he gets on base at a decent clip for a shortstop.

2. The Cubs will win the division by close to ten games.

The Cubs are just more talented than anyone else in the division. They may not win by double digits, but if they don’t, it’s because they slack off at the end with a big lead. I honestly don’t think the Central will be much of a race heading into August.

3. Kevin Gregg will stick at the closer’s spot if he stays healthy.

Carlos Marmol will win the closer’s job on the Cubs some day. But it won’t be this season. Last year, prior to August 13, Gregg had a 2.29 ERA. Several bad outings after that – and after he hurt his knee – inflated his ERA. When he’s healthy, Gregg is a good pitcher, and it’s likely the Cubs won’t move away from him unless he goes on the DL.

4.  Geovany Soto won’t experience much of a sophomore slump.

Soto’s numbers last year were great, and he might fall a little short of those, but that’s a testament to the high bar he set, not to his talent. He’s legitimately one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball, and his peripherals don’t suggest he’s going to fall off much. In fact, he may improve rather than regress, because he’s still young.

5. Ryan Dempster will remain valuable.

Dempster isn’t going to have an ERA under 3 again. But last year wasn’t especially lucky. He allowed a .288 BABIP. Average is around .300. .290. I didn’t believe the Dempster-as-starter experiment was a good idea, but he proved me wrong.  He knows how to pitch, he has good stuff, and he’ll put up solid numbers.

Update: MB21 informs me in the comments that average BABIP for a pitcher is about .290, not about .300. I regret the error and blame it on the strict deadlines this blog keeps.

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Long-term pitcher contract values

The Cubs have two starting pitchers locked up to long-term deals: Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Options aside, both pitchers are signed through 2012. Zambrano is going into the second year of a 5-year, $91.5 million contract. Dempster is just starting his 4-year, $52 million contract. 

Are either of them likely to live up to their contracts? Of course we can’t tell for sure, but a few days ago, TucsonRoyal over at Beyond the Box Score took a stab at calculating whether C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett would live up to their contracts. To do so, he looked to see how pitchers have done from year to year in terms of innings pitched and WAR and came up with a multiplier for each year of age. He admits the numbers are a little biased because he made a mistake calculating the multipliers, but it’s still an interesting exercise, so I did it for Zambrano and Dempster’s contracts. I assumed the 10% increase in win value would hold true on average over the life of their contracts. The results?

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Zambrano has already played out the first year of his contract, so we know what he did for 1/5 of it, while we’re just speculating for the entirety of Dempster’s. No matter. Using this method we come up with Dempster being worth $65.4 million, or $13.4 million more than his contract. And Zambrano would be worth $64.5 million, or $27.5 million below what he’s getting paid.

How much stock should we put in these numbers? Well, probably not a ton. First, there’s the error TucsonRoyal himself mentioned. Second, I would imagine there’s a fair bit of variance in these numbers, so you can reasonably expect a player to pretty far under- or over- perform these predictions. And finally, the multipliers don’t work to predict either Dempster or Zambrano’s career paths so far. 

For Dempster’s part, that might just be because he’s bounced between the bullpen and the rotation, and because of his surgery. For Zambrano’s part, he pitched fewer innings last year (because of injury) than TucsonRoyal’s numbers would have predicted, although it was about right for WAR. It was way off between 2006 and 2007, though. Maybe Zambrano has been a little unlucky the past couple of years and his true talent level is higher than his performance has indicted, or maybe he’s declining earlier than most people, but my sense is he’s probably a bit of an outlier. But the numbers are definitely interesting to play with, and I’m eager to see the next iteration of TucsonRoyal’s work.

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