5 Reasons the Ryan Dempster Trade Will Be a Bust for the Rangers
The cost wasn't high; the Rangers only gave up a minor league third baseman blocked in the system by Adrian Beltre and Mike Olt and an organizational pitcher who isn't much of a prospect.
Dempster has good numbers this year, and the Rangers needed a No. 1 or No. 2 starting pitcher, but Dempster was not the answer. Here are five reasons why.
Ryan Dempster Has Overachieved This Year
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Sure, Ryan Dempster has a 2.25 ERA this year. And sure, he went 33 innings without allowing a run. But Dempster has not pitched as well as his numbers in 2012.
For starters, Dempster has allowed just a .242 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is way below both the major league average and his own career average, which is .301. This shows he's been lucky with balls that are put in play.
He has also left 84 percent of baserunners on without scoring, compared with 72 percent for his career; one might call that good pitching, but I would call it fortunate timing.
Dempster also has a 3.41 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a statistic that predicts what an pitcher's ERA should be after taking into account strikeouts, walks and home runs, or the only results that a pitcher truly has almost complete control of.
Ryan Dempster is an above-average pitcher; I'm not debating that. But is he the ace the Rangers were looking for? Absolutely not.
Ryan Dempster's Numbers Will Regress in the AL West
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Not only has Dempster been pitching over his head this year, but the competition that he faces is about to get a lot tougher.
He's moving to the league as the designated hitter, which means that he will no longer face an opposing team's starting pitcher around three times ago or an innings worth of at-bats out of his start.
The American League is a tougher league to pitch in. Dempster may face the Angels, Tigers and Yankees during the season's last two months, all lineups considerably better than the lineups that he faced pitching in the AL Central.
The Ballpark at Arlington is also a hitter's park, and the hot weather of the summer months makes the ball carry better than in windy Wrigley Field.
Ryan Dempster's job is about to get a lot harder.
Trading for Ryan Dempster Was an Impulse Move
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To me, Jon Daniels' decision to trade for Ryan Dempster at the last minute was very much an impulse move, which rarely works out (see: the Yankees' signing of Kei Igawa in response to the Red Sox's signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka, as one example).
First, the Rangers' biggest rival, the Angels, acquired yet another ace in Zack Greinke over the weekend. They now trot out a rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Greinke, and perhaps Dan Haren and Ervin Santana (depending on health and performance—formidable both for the regular season and playoff series.
Then, other potential front-end starters fell off the market. Cole Hamels had already re-signed with the Phillies, the Marlins decided to hold on to Josh Johnson, the Red Sox kept Josh Beckett, and the Cubs were asking too high a price for Matt Garza.
Around 2:00 this afternoon, it started being reported that the Yankees were in on Ryan Dempster, too. If they acquired him, yet another team the Rangers may play in the playoffs would have obtained starting pitching help while the Rangers acquired none. (In the last couple of weeks, the Tigers got Anibal Sanchez, and the White Sox traded for Francisco Liriano.)
The Rangers also just found out that starter Neftali Feliz would need Tommy John surgery and had to process that information in a fairly short time.
I think Jon Daniels panicked, decided he needed to make a deal and traded for Ryan Dempster.
Don't get me wrong. I think this was a trade worth making, particularly due to the low cost of acquiring Dempster. But I don't think he is the ace that the Rangers needed.
Ryan Dempster Isn't a Huge Upgrade
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To make room for Dempster in the Rangers rotation, Roy Oswalt, who has been terrible in his six starts, will shift to the bullpen.
The team's five starters will now be Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Dempster, Derek Holland and Scott Feldman.
Dempster is certainly an upgrade over Oswalt, the team's fifth starter, but fifth starters don't pitch in the playoffs.
The fact is that I don't see Dempster as a significant upgrade over Harrison or Darvish in Game 1 or 2 in a playoff series.
The Rangers Needed More
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Think about it this way: In the playoffs, the starters that the Rangers would likely face in Game 1 and 2 against the Yankees would be C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, or Jered Weaver and Zack Greinke against the Angels. Even against the Tigers they would face Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.
Does Dempster starting in one of those games over either Harrison or Darvish make much of a difference in those matchups? Not to me.
The Rangers rotation before the Dempster trade was not bad; in fact, Matt Harrison has been great for them. Yu Darvish has done a good job adjusting to the big leagues, and Derek Holland and Scott Feldman have pitched very well.
The place that the Rangers needed improving was in top-of-the-line starting pitching, not what a No. 3 starter would be characterized as.
The Rangers made a panic move at the trade deadline to perhaps improve their rotation slightly, but not in the way that they needed. The cost was low, but so will be the benefit.