Looking back at Ryan Dempster’s Cubs career

In August 2003 Ryan Dempster underwent Tommy John surgery while a member of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds released him in November that year and the Cubs signed him as a free agent on January 21st, 2004. The Cubs were a contender at this time and while Dempster would not be ready to start the season, he could provide some help in the bullpen late in the season. On August 1st Dempster made his Cubs debut and threw .2 innings. He'd throw another 20 innings that season and ended the year with a sub 4 ERA, a 4.11 FIP and a strikeout rate near 7.9 per 9. ;

Dempster had always had trouble with his control and 2004 was no different. He walked more than 5.5 guys per 9. He returned to the Cubs for $2 million in 2005 and became the team's closer. He threw over 90 innings in what wasn't a very good season for the Cubs. He saved over 30 games, had a solid 3.13 ERA and 3.38 FIP. He was good for 1.9 fWAR and 2.1 rWAR. ;

2006 and 2007 didn't go as well for Dempster as he saw his ERA approach 5. He walked about 4.5 per 9 from 2005 through 2007 so things were a lot more difficult because of that. Dempster had always had a lot of potential, but he had poor control, which kept him from reaching that potential. ;

Following Dempster's impressive 2005 season the Cubs signed the reliever to a 3-year deal for more than $15 million. He'd end up earning $17 million over those years. Lou Piniella made what was seemingly a terrible decision in spring training 2008. He decided Ryan Dempster would be a starter. Dempster wouldn't let him down and he surprised damn near everybody. ;

He'd thrown over 100 innings only once since 2002 (115 innings in 2003). To help condition himself for the long season, Dempster ran up Camelback Mountain, which was kind of funny at the time. No way was this guy going to last 200+ innings. But he did. And he was one of the better starters in the league.

He posted a 2.96 ERA and a 3.41 FIP. His fWAR was 5.2 and his rWAR was 6.7. Re-signing Dempster became a necessity. Nobody thought the'd be as good as he was in 2008. He was a bit lucky and the Cubs didn't pay him to pitch that well either. Not even close. They signed to a 4-year deal for $52 million, which expires after this season ends. ;

Since 2008 Dempster has been very consistent. His xFIP in 2008 was 3.69. Since then it's been 3.76, 3.74, 3.70 and 3.74 this season. The run environment has changed so those aren't quite the same. His xFIP- (like ERA+, but less than 100 is above average) has been 85, 88, 94, 96 and 96 again this season. ;

Since 2008 only 16 pitchers have more fWAR than Dempster. Dempster came to the Cubs broken and put together an OK career in the bullpen before becoming a well above average starting pitcher. ;

He used his 10 & 5 rights to veto a trade to the Atlanta Braves and just beat up a Gatorade cooler in the dugout.