It wasn't so long ago that Cubs fans were calling their postseason game one starter Ryan "Dumpster."
As Chicago's closer for three years, "Dumpster" racked up 19 losses and 14 blown saves with an ERA over 4.00. He finished the 2005 campaign with the best saves percentage in baseball, but never had lights-out closer material. Many of the 85 saves over his three seasons closing were at the expense of Cubs fans' blood pressure.
Dempster always looked a little out of sorts when he took the mound, like someone had just woken him up from the bench and shoved a Red Bull in his hand. He was good, but the ERA ballooned in 2006 and 2007, along with his blown saves. It's not surprising that the nickname given to him by a Vineline cover story, "the Fireman," never caught on with fans.
But that was then, and this is now. Since his conversion to a starter, Dempster began the 2008 season 10-0 at home, a first in Cubs' history. He didn't stop there—he's looking at career bests in wins and ERA. (He's in the top five in the National League in ERA currently.) You can look up all the facts and figures that you want about the man, but nothing tells you how his season is going than Dempster's calm, collected demeanor on the mound every start.
Ryan Dempster promised Cubs fans a World Series Championship in preseason, and, like most predictions from players, his comments were taken with a grain of salt. The Cubs' funnyman insisted he wasn't kidding around.
No one's laughing now when ESPN and Sports Illustrated talk about the Cubs being the best team in the National League, or about the fact that Dempster has a genuine shot at his first Cy Young Award.
Sweet Lou has tapped Dempster to start game one of the Divisional Series against either the Mets, Dodgers, or Phillies. It's a move that would have been laughed at in the preseason. With Zambrano on the ropes for the past two games, however, Lou is riding the hot hand straight into the postseason.
Chicago's postseason hopes rest on Dempster's shoulders. Cubs' fans don't have anything to worry about: The former "Dumpster" is used to high pressure situations, and, unlike his short-lived career as a closer, he shows no signs of flaming out now.