Stat Boy Learns That Pitchin' Ain't Easy

So much has been written about the Cubs' lack of hitting, that sometimes people overlook the guys on the bump.  To the naked eye, it looks like the Cubs got waxed in their three-game set against the Cardinals.  But to the wise observer, the Cubs starters should be showered with praise after handcuffing one of baseball's best offenses.

Cubs starters Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano combined to eat up 21.2 innings over the weekend.  That's $37.75 million worth of starting pitching earning their respective paychecks.  Lilly and Big Z each allowed two earned runs, while Dempster only allowed one -- on the Brendan Ryan home run with the assist from Bobby Scales' mitt.  The trio's collective WHIP over the weekend  was 1.037.

Those are the kinds of numbers that pitching coaches dream about seeing.  Too bad Larry Rothschild won't get any credit for this.  It's safe to assume that had Dave Duncan been working with this bunch, Teddy, Demp and Big Z would have thrown 27 innings of perfect ball.

More drool-inducing numbers after the jump.

For Lilly, it was more of the same.  Has he benefited from switching from the AL to the NL?  Of course it's only natural. The namesake of former president Theodore Roosvelt, Lilly has posted a 44-25 record since returning to the senior circuit after stints with the Yankees, A's and Blue Jays  His earned run average dipped from 4.52 to 3.84.  Take away his 7.61 ERA in his brief stint with the Washington Nationals Montreal Expos, it drops to 3.68.  And despite a stint on the 15-day DL, Lilly is on pace to make at least 30 starts for the fifth straight year, and seven out of his last eight.

His contract is up after the 2010 season, and if he stays healthy, he could find himself signing an extension to stay in Cubbie blue pinstripes.  At this point, I'd be willing to hook Jim Hendry up to an EKG machine A.S.A.P. to make it happen.

Then there is Dempster, who is pitching more like the guy who won 17 games last season than the guy who imploded in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.  He owns a 5-3 record in the second half, a 3.19 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 3.59-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Over his last five starts, Dempster has a 3-1 record, 2.29 ERA, 1.245 WHIP and a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The key to Demps' reemergence has been his ability to limit the free passes.  Over his last four starts, Dempster has allowed only five walks in 54.1 innings of work.  In six August starts, he allowed 12.  He has pitched in 13 games in which he has received three runs or less in the run support category.  For those of you keeping score at home, that keeps him in a tie with Lilly.  Harden is close behind with 12 of those types of starts, Big Z has 10 of those and "Hard Luck" Randy Wells has only six.

Also, take note that Wells trails Zambrano by 0.01 runs in the run-support-per-game category as El Toro gets 4.86 runs per game to work with while Wells gets 4.85. 

As for Dempster, apparently, he had some issues at home with his child that weighed on him early in the season as reported via a Ken Rosenthal scoop on FOX Saturday baseball.  I've been one of Dempster's most harsh critics, but upon learning this, I'd like to tip my cap to Demp and wish him and his family the best.  If Dempster can get past whatever plagues him and pitch like this over the next three years, he'd be a welcome piece of the puzzle.

And how can you forget about Big Z, the richest member of the North Side's Big Three.  Zambrano earned a buck or two with a quality performance in St. Louis, a team he doesn't always match-up well against.  He scuffled in the fifth inning but did rebound to work a scoreless sixth en route to a no-decision.  Big Z now has 12 of those this year.  His numbers in NDs are as follows: 75.1 IP 3.46 ERA 1.30 WHIP ... all while holding hitters to a .227 batting average against and an OPS of .692.

If Big Z wins half of those starts, it would put him at 14-6.  And by my count, 14-6 > 8-6.

But what do I know?  I'm just Stat Boy.