Since Ryan Dempster became a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs at the beginning of the 2008 season, he has logged 406 2/3 innings. He has a 3.30 ERA, two-and-a-half times as many strikeouts as walks, and 28 wins.
More tellingly, Dempster has allowed the third-lowest contact rate in the league over the past two seasons. That statistic has obvious value, but to emphasize its meaning, the two men who stand higher are CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum.
Once a pudgy and erratic closer, Dempster has become disciplined, methodical and precise. A quirky adjustment to his delivery eliminated opponents' ability to pick up his split-fingered fastball, and allowed him to use it in lieu of the change-up he had previously favored. That made lefthanded hitters better able to hit him than they had in the past, but helped tremendously in homer-friendly Wrigley Field.
At 32, going on 33, Dempster now enters the second year of a four-year contract signed after his stellar 2008 season, and though we likely won't see 200 innings and a sub-3.00 ERA from Dempster again, there is no reason not to believe that he can continue his consistent and underrated production. Here are the numbers I forecast for Dempster in 2010:
- 32 starts
- 197 innings
- 166 strikeouts
- 66 walks
- 1.34 WHIP
- 3.93 ERA
- 3.82 FIP