Buy Low, Sell High
Anyone who has played fantasy baseball is familiar with the concept of trying to acquire players when they're slumping and trading players when they're on a hot streak. Let's take a look at the Cubs roster and see if we can spot any trends for the second half of the season. There are of course the traditional statistics such as ERA, wins and losses, WHIP, etc, but for the most part I'll be looking at some of the peripherals that are good indicators of what to truly expect from these guys. I'll begin with the starting rotation.
Carlos Zambrano - 8-3, 3.13 ERA, 5.76 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 1.89 K:BB, 0.59 HR/9, .297 BABIP
There are three areas of concern with Big Z. The 5.68 ERA he put up in June, the alarming decline in his strikeout rate and of course, the shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list. Yeah, he'll be back by Friday, but anytime a pitcher goes down you have to worry about re-injuring himself. You can try and chalk up June to just having a bad month and maybe his shoulder was acting up on him before he actually told anyone, but what you really have to be worried about his is the 5.76 K/9 rate he's sporting this year.
It seems to have been a conscious decision on his part to go less for the strikeout and gain some more control on his pitches. His walk rate has dramatically improved to go along with the decrease in his strikeout rate (3.05 BB/9 this year compared to 4.20 and 4.84 the last two seasons). And you can't argue with the success he's had for the most part this year, but there's not a lot of pitchers that can put up ERA's in the low three's with that low a strikeout rate...I mean, we're talking almost Jason Marquis territory here. His groundball to flyball ratio has improved as well with his new approach and I think he can still dial it up whenever he needs to, but I' d sure feel a lot more comfortable if he got that K/9 rate above six at least.
Ryan Dempster - 9-3, 3.26 ERA, 7.37 K/9, 3.51 BB/9, 2.10 K:BB, 0.86 HR/9, .258 BABIP
Dempster was as lucky as they get early on in the season, sporting a BABIP in the low .200's which he had no chance in hell of sustaining. The lowest BABIP in the last five years for any pitcher with at least 150 innings was Chris Young in 2006 with a .237 BABIP and that was quite abnormal and he also pitches in a park where flyballs go to die. If you look at the leaderboards over the last few years, you'll see a few pitchers in the .250 range every season but most pitchers hover around the .300 mark.
The correction has already started and despite his last outing, Dempster is still well ahead of the bell curve and will possibly get a a well-deserved All-Star spot. Sure his career numbers suggest that he's still due for some more correction, but I think anyone who's watched him this year realizes that this is a different Dempster from past years...at least as a starter. His walk rates are still quite high, but he's fooling batters, keeping the ball in the park and seems to be able to induce a double play whenever he needs one.
That all being said, he's a prime candidate for one of those multi-year contracts Hendry likes to give out to players he finds off the scrap-heap that have career years with the Cubs (see Rusch, Glendon). And hopefully Hendry realizes that trying to catch lightning in a bottle makes for a hazardous work place.
Ted Lilly - 9-5, 4.56 ERA, 8.44 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, 2.63 K:BB, 1.52 HR/9, .292 BABIP
I covered Ted Lilly in yesterday's game thread, so I'll just recap. He finished June with a 3.21 ERA after a 6.46 in April and 4.72 in May. His biggest problem has been his home run rate which has skyrocketed to 1.52 HR/9 this year (it was 1.64 heading into yesterday's game). Also prior to yesterday's game, he was giving up a home run on 13% of the flyballs hit off him, which is an astoundingly high number. Most pitchers are in the 10-11% range and with yesterday's performance, it's already down to 12.6%.
So expect Lilly to continue to improve, the control isn't quite as good as last year, but he's still missing bats and expect a few less balls to fly over the fence.
Jason Marquis - 6-4, 4.96 ERA, 4.64 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 1.53 K:BB, 1.21 HR/9, .289 BABIP
The same Jason Marquis that should be expected. He's not going to strike out a lot, he's going to put people on base, much to the chagrin of Cubs fans and Lou Piniella. He makes up for those walks by keeping the ball in the park and on the ground and at the end of the day, he's useful maybe 50% of the time (if that much). I took a look at his quality starts over the years (defined as at least six innings pitched and an ERA of 4.50 or below for that game).
A bit of slippage this year, but some of that can be attributed to Lou's quick trigger with Marquis and not being able to reach six innings. If you look at his game logs this year, I'd say nine of his 15 starts have been useful. He's gone at least five or more innings and given up three or less runs. There is value in what he does, mostly that he stays healthy and you can reasonably expect him to keep the team in the game on the days he starts. Can the Cubs do better? Sure there's more talented pitchers out there, but don't underestimate the value of staying healthy.
Of course, we'll all be doing a little happy dance the day he leaves the Cubs.
Sean Gallagher - 3-3, 4.36 ERA, 7.88 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, 2.35 K:BB, 1.01 HR/9, .315 BABIP
A rather pleasant surprise after a forgetful spring, the 22-year old has shown signs of brilliance. Sporting a four-seamer that hits the mid 90's, a two-seamer that dives away from lefties and solid control of his breaking stuff (a slider and a curve), I think better days are ahead for Gallagher. He still has quite a bit to learn about the art of pitching, but that probably could be said for most 22-year old pitchers. A look at his game logs show that six of his nine starts have been what you have to consider at least useful.
His numbers right now are promising and the looks of that BABIP suggest that they should get a little better. They also suggest that he'd pretty much have to be included in any deal that would get C.C. Sabathia to the Cubs.