As pointed out in a recent post by my colleague, Ryan Dempster was supposed to be the ace of this pitching staff. So far, he has been far from it, and really needs to fix what is wrong. Nobody truly knows what is wrong, but there are a few things that I have noticed that he can actually fix himself.
Dempster is a sinkerball pitcher, and these types of pitchers need to live in the bottom half of the strike zone. I have noticed that most pitches he throws in the strike zone tend to be up. When a sinkerball pitcher gets anything elevated, he is very hittable, and clearly he has been extremely hittable. If he can start locating his pitches in the lower half of the strike zone, he will become less hittable, and may not give up as many hits.
This is Mike Quade’s first full year as the Cubs manager, and he still has a lot to learn. Handling his pitchers is one of the aspects of the game that he will have to learn better with more experience. Dempster could be slightly overworked since the start of the season. To start off the year, he was pitching much better than he is now, it just seemed that he was left in one inning longer than he should have. Typically after spring training managers have a specific pitch count for their starters, and I would have to believe that Dempster surpassed his total on opening day. He threw 114 pitches in his first start and had to exit the game in the seventh. In four out of his six starts, he has gone over 100 pitches, and maybe he just needs to be monitored a little more.
One other rumor that has been thrown around is that Dempster is tipping off his pitches. This is something that Ryan has had to deal with before. Earlier in his career as a starter, he was tipping off his pitches, which led to inflated ERAs, and his eventual move to the bullpen. He managed to make a comeback with a strategy that he came up with to stop the tipping. He created the glove shake that you see during every pitch he throws. I’m not sure how hitters might have been able to read anything now, but it is definitely possible.
The Cubs obviously know that he is struggling; otherwise he would have started yesterday against the Dodgers. Any team would rather have their “ace” go again, especially after only working 1/3 of an inning his last outing, than a make shift starter out of the bullpen.
Ryan is slated to start tonight against the Dodgers, and even though it has been a short time period to work on what may be wrong, I’m sure that he and the coaches have been working diligently to fix the problem. Maybe if it is one of these ideas that he can control, we can see the Dempster that we have come to love, and he can get his first quality start. Everyone knows that he needs a good performance in order to get his confidence back, nobody more than Dempster himself. Hopefully, he can manage that tonight.