From 2008-2010, Ryan Dempster posted a 3.49 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 2.50 K:BB rate over 622 innings. He averaged 189 K’s a season during that stretch and was a great fantasy baseball contributor, i.e. he was all Henry Rowengartner.
Then, Dempster turned 34 and became all Chet Steadman. His 2011 was miserable and worthless (just like Daniel Stern sans Home Alone/Celtic Pride): 4.80 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 2.33 K:BB rate.
While he did have 191 K’s, his K:BB rate continued a downward trend. In addition, he had one of the biggest declines in swinging strike rates last season, just behind Jhoulys Chacin, Jered Weaver, Daniel Hudson and Ricky Nolasco. That said, his K/9 and BB/9 rates were very close to his 2010 rates.
In reality, the issue with 2011 wasn’t exactly command or lack of K’s but too many eephus balls. His line drive rate was 20.8%, up from 15.6% in 2010 and 18.3% in 2009. Last season, he threw his slider less and relied on his fastball more and not surprisingly got fewer ground balls – not a good recipe for Wrigley. It is also a poor recipe for swinging strikes and thus strike-outs.
Still, any way you slice it, he was a tad unlucky. If he gets back to working that fastball and slider in good combination, his ground balls will increase, his line drives will go down and his BABIP will follow suit.
Dempster is getting up there and we’ve probably seen his best stretch, but he’s still capable of an ERA slightly under 4.00, a 1.35 WHIP and 180 Ks. Those K’s would put him in the top 25 among pitchers, while his ERA and WHIP would be in the 55 – 70 range. That’s a heck of a #4 starter.
Yet, Dempster is the 93rd SP off the board at Mock Draft Central. It’s shocking that Drew Pomeranz, Brett Anderson, R.A. Dickey, Kyle Lohse, Johan Santana, Erik Bedard, Phil Hughes, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Doug Fister, Trevor Cahill and others are going before him.