Who Could Be the Odd Man Out of the Cubs Rotation?

Along with the loud exit of starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs have quietly amassed a stable of valuable pitchers. No, the Cubs haven’t gone out and gotten the most talented and most capable of starting pitchers. However, relative to the contracts that the team is paying their starting pitchers, their value exceeds their marketability.

After Carlos Zambrano left the team, many thought Matt Garza would be the next one out. Garza has since remained as the team ace, raising the question as to what the Cubs plan to do with their Major League-ready talent.

Clearly, Garza and Ryan Dempster will remain with the team, at least for now, as will Paul Maholm, which leaves two spots to fight for between Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine, and Rodrigo Lopez.

The easy deductions are Andy Sonnanstine and Rodrigo Lopez from the roster, especially Lopez, since he doesn’t need to be put on the 40-man roster with signing only minor league deal that includes a non-roster Spring Training invite, essentially leaving Wells, Volstad, and Wood.

Each of those three pitchers register in the 88-90 MPH range, it’s safe to say that none of those pitchers would fit the mold of a power reliever, ala Kerry Wood. However, one of the more successful rotation-to-bullpen conversions wasn’t in the power relief mold–Sean Marshall.

None of those pitchers share the same handedness that Marshall possesses, however one–Chris Volstad–could be a right-handed Sean Marshall.

The book on Chris Volstad has been pretty much established–a fallen top prospect that has seen trouble in recent years. Since a solid debut in 2008, Volstad has never seen his ERA fall below 4.50. In addition, Volstad hasn’t ever put up a strong strike out rate in his career. Over the past three years, he has produced an average of 29 games started. However, he fails to pitch past the sixth inning.

Volstad offers a good variety of pitches, and his pitch selection counteracts the lefty advantage. In fact, all of three of his off-speed pitches–the change-up, slider, and curveball–offer exceptional swing and miss rates against left-handers.

Chris Volstad has also proven to be more productive earlier on in his pitch counts. Through pitches 1-25, his K/BB rate is 3.20 with a .292/.332/.404 slash line. In contrast, when he throws 51-75 pitches, his K/BB rate drops to 1.79 with a .331/.375/.614 slash line.

Out of all of the Cubs pitchers, Chris Volstad would be best suited to make a successful transition to become a swing man out of the bullpen as a sixth starter, and possibly become a decent set-up man in the Sean Marshall mold.

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  • http://gladiatorblog.blogspot.com/ SirGladiator

    Those are some interesting statistics, but the premise overlooks what an awesome second half Volstad had, and that really tall pitchers like him tend to develop later, suggesting its quite likely that it wasnt just a fluke, that he is finally putting it all together, and is about to become the dominant starter he was always expected to be.  He’s still quite young, this isnt an old guy by any means.  I expect him to continue his march toward dominance that he began last year, I’d hate to see him relegated to the pen when he’s so close to achieving the greatness that he has already shown that he is capable of.

  • Tony_Hall

    I see Wells as the odd man out and ends up being the long man in the pen.  I don’t see any of these guys becoming set-ups guys, at all.

    Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad, Woods is who I think will be in the rotation at this point, baring injuries. But that is why we have ST, to watch them pitch against real hitters.

    I am really looking forward to ST and I am extremely envious of the guys who are saying they will be at ST.

    • daverj

      I agree on the guys in the rotation, but I think Wood will be the #4 and Volstad the #5 … only matters for the few weeks of the season when a #5 isn’t needed.  I see Wells as the long man out of the pen too.

      • Tony_Hall

        I agree on the official #4 and #5, but I listed them as I would use them, splitting the 2 lefties.

  • paulcatanese

    Interesting deal, JH with the Yankees,

    I guess we can watch the owner playing his fiddle while the Yankees burn.

    • Calicub

      Maybe they can get sweet lou to come out of retirement to complete the trifecta of failure…

      Althouth truth be told I do highly respect larry rothleschild

      • paulcatanese

        Agree with your’e choice with Larry, he at least showed interest, who knows what may have happened if he had stayed.

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Not trying to add to this, but Lou is back with the Yankees. He will be calling games on the YES Network.

    • John G

      Special Assistant to the GM.
      Wasn’t that George Costanza’s job?

      • Michael

        He was special assistant to the traveling secretary.

        • John G

          Doesn’t matter. It just seems appropriate that Jim Hendry and George Costanza share a lot of similarities.

          • Anthony

            He has a structured settement and he needs cash now, who should he call?

          • Brian

            JG WENTWORTH

    • Cubs 31

      As Arte Johnson would often say on the old TV show LAUGHIN  “Very Interesting”

  • jw

    I think Hendry will be an asset to the Yankees. He has a lot of experience and as long as he is not making the decisions it won’t hurt them.

    • paulcatanese

      He knows the best restaurants in town, I’m sure:)

      • jw


        Think the Yanks got him for advanced scouting on the Cubs seeing as how they want a leg up on the upcoming Cubs Yankees World Series LOL

  • cubtex

    I would like to congratulate all the high school senior student athletes (including my son) who will be signing their National Letters of Intent tomorrow to play a sport at the collegiate level! Proud day for all the parents who have children signing!

    • paulcatanese

      You bet, great day for you and you’re son, congratulations, enjoy.( I mean the whole family ).

      • cubtex

        Thank you Paul!

        • Anthony

          without outing yourself tex, tell us about the ride, the details, as I can do the same, but can’t but would love to hear the journey to the joy brought to you and family…………..I know it also, but want to hear yours

          • cubtex

            Well I can tell you this… I always wanted to have a baseball player and follow my dream. He was born with a lazy eye and one of the first things the eye doctor told me is that he would never be a professional baseball player. That was probably the hardest words I could ever hear at the time. With surgery…his eyes are fine and you can’t tell anything was ever wrong. I never listened to that doctor and he played baseball until 11…and if I must say..at a pretty high level. I coached a select team here in Texas that we were State runner ups(and baseball is very very competitive here in Texas)
            We signed up the baseball team for a track camp to get them in shape….and the coaches came up to me and told me I had something special with him and I need to get him on  a running team. He ran AAU and ran in the Junior Olympics. He concentrated on running in High School and is nationally ranked in the 5K,mile and 800M. He was pretty heavily recruited and a very bright kid(most probably say he takes after his mother with the smarts) He took his official visits at 3 major division 1 programs and with his smarts and legs….he is getting a full ride. He hopes to major in bio medical engineering. As you probably know Anthony….baseball and track and field are not like football. Track only gets 11.2 scholarships…but he got a 50/50 athletic/academic. Hope I didn’t bore you…but we are extremely proud of him. I want him to enjoy his college experience and bonding with his fellow athletes like I had the chance. Those will be some of his best memories! I don’t want to name the school because I don’t want some Theo fan who I offended do anything crazy :)

          • Tom U

            Congratulations Cubtex to you and your son. My son also needed eye surgery shortly after birth and lost most of his depth perception. He was able to play baseball for a little while by timing the pitches in his head. He now plays football and is doing well. If he could only gain some weight!

            My daughter is the one with the crazy athletic ability, and just started track practice this week (sprints and high jump).

          • paulcatanese

            Great story, it’s obvious he never gave up, and the reward is justified,the 50/50 is great, very difficult getting the academic part, but both took a lot of work on his part.

          • SuzyS

            cubtex, I’m really happy for you and your family!!!  It’s what really makes life worthwhile…

          • Tony_Hall

            Great story, thanks for sharing.  You can see the smile on your face and the pride you have in your words.

    • daverj

      Congrats!  Very exciting!

      • cubtex

        We are very proud! Thanks!

    • Aaron

      Congrats my man….very proud day. What sport?

      • cubtex

        Appreciate it! He is a track and cross country runner. Mile and 800M. I tried to have him be a baseball player…… but he is a much better runner :))

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Congratulations! Very cool …

      • cubtex

        thank you Neil!

  • Anthony

    Quiet in our Momma’s basement, so lets start some trouble.

    When they finally move Starlin Darlin off SS since I am the only one who suggests trading, is it 3B, 2B, or LF, and………….

    when you post, think of the trickle down effect within the organization when the defensive move is made, and it WILL BE MADE!

    Chat, suggest, think outside the box, forethought, cleverness, and good luck.

    And, please, NO spirited Civic pride craaap, just baseball talk please, let the emotions go.

    tex, be happy, been there, and it is fun when the kids make you proud, a sign of love, unselfishness, and A1 parenting…….