Reevaluating Ryan Dempster

Eric StashinSenior Writer IJune 13, 2009

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 23:  Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs poses during photo day at the Fitch Park Spring Training complex on February 23, 2009 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Prior to the season Ryan Dempster was a pitcher that I was significantly down on.  I recommended avoiding him any chance I got.  How good could a mediocre starter turned bad closer turned back to a starter possibly enjoy similar success then he did in 2008 when he went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

Through his first 10 starts he proved my point, with his 3-3 record and 4.99 ERA.  In his last three starts, however, things have taken a dramatic turn.  In 20 innings, he’s allowed just 1 earned run on 16 hits and 3 walks, striking out 16.  That brought his ERA all the way down to 3.87 ERA, a number that obviously would make him usable.

So, has my opinion changed on him?  First, let’s look at his overall numbers:

4 Wins
81.1 Innings
3.87 ERA
1.25 WHIP
68 Strikeouts (7.52 K/9)
29 Walks (3.21 BB/9)
.284 BABIP

I must say that his peripheral numbers are pretty similar to what he posted in ‘08:

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K/9: 7.52 vs. 8.14 in ‘08
BB/9: 3.21 vs. 3.31 in ‘08
BABIP: .284 vs. .288 in ‘08

The fly balls he’s allowed are a big issue.  Last season he posted a FB% of 31.8 percent, putting him in the top 25 in the league.  That number is up to 38.0 percent this season.  Obviously, with more fly balls it is likely to lead to more home runs, which has been the case.  Last season he posted a HR/9 of 0.61, which is up to 1.00 this season.

That explains the rise in ERA and is also along the lines of his career mark of 0.96.  While the number could be reduced as the season progresses, I don’t think he’ll come close to the mark he posted last season.

I know the argument in favor of his improvement would be his strand rate, currently at 71.4 percent vs. his 76.7 percent a year ago.  It’s a number that he could improve upon, though it is not like he has been extremely unlucky. 

Keep in mind that there are 38 starting pitchers with a mark worse then his.  It is no guarantee that he is going to see any vast improve there.

I have to admit, this recent hot streak has brought him into fantasy relevance once again.  Even in his struggles early on, he has proven that he can put up similar numbers to those he did a year ago, justifying him as a useful option.

That doesn’t mean he’s an option that I’m going to trust, however.  The increased fly balls worry me, and there is no way I see him even coming close to a sub-3 ERA.  He’s not going to continue to shut people out, it’s just not possible.

Back in November I gave my projected line for him, of:

182.0 IP, 12 W, 4.20 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 161 K (7.96 K/9), 71 BB (3.51 BB/9)

The WHIP is where I think I will be significantly off.  He’s going to have a very usable number, likely right around 1.30 or better.  Outside of that, I’m holding to my numbers.  This hot streak is going to end and his numbers are going to regress back to where they were.

What do you think?  Is Dempster a pitcher you think is going to continue to thrive or will he decline?