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Chris Volstad has been among the greatest disappointments so far this year for the Chicago Cubs.

Not because he’s been so abysmally awful, mind you, but because a number of us, rationally or irrationally, had hopes that he might finally break through this year, and live up to his middle-of-the-rotation-or-higher potential. That included manager Dale Sveum and Chris Bosio (as well, presumably, as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who picked up Volstad in exchange for Carlos Zambrano, who needed to be dumped, but who is pitching quite well in Miami).

None of them – none of us – can be particularly happy with what Volstad has provided. The 25-year-old has made six starts, none of them quality. His best start was his first, in which he went five innings, gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks. Not exactly a shining star, and that’s his best. Volstad has struggled, in particular, with men on base, which has made him susceptible to the big inning.

How much longer will the Cubs wait on Volstad, while guys like Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Chris Rusin and Casey Coleman pitch at AAA (or the bullpen, now, in Coleman’s case)? None are lighting the world on fire, save perhaps Rusin, who might have the lowest ceiling. But, at what point is it worth just giving someone else a chance, you know?

That point might be coming soon, if you listen to what Dale Sveum is saying.

“Yeah, you’re going to consider it,” Sveum said of a change in the rotation, according to ESPNChicago. “There are options and there’s things you can try and other people you can try. When that time comes we don’t know, but we’re obviously all frustrated with the starts and the innings, the five shutout innings and the one big inning. We’re all frustrated with that and trying to get a grip on it. After six or seven starts in we can’t get a grip on it.”

Sveum later admitted that he’s already started thinking about what he would do if Volstad were removed from the rotation.

“You can do a lot of things,” Sveum said. “When are we going to [make a rotation change] that is another million-dollar question.”

For now, Volstad will at least get one more start, and the coaching staff hopes that Volstad completely scrapping his slider – or at least his version of the slider – will help.

“Well you work on it, come up with a different grip or something,” Sveum said. “Or use the curveball more, or more changeups to right-handed hitters or something. The slider, when it’s a strike, it’s hit, and when it’s a ball it doesn’t get swung and missed at.”

In other words: stop throwing it.

To my eye, one of Volstad’s biggest problems when runners are on is that his sinker gets very little sinking action, and it almost always starts up in the zone. I’m not sure if he’s having trouble with his location out of the stretch, but when a sinker-baller leaves his sinker up, he gets hit hard.

In any event, we’ll see Volstad at least one more time.  Hopefully it will be the first of many consecutive quality starts. Finally.

If he doesn’t turn things around, the Cubs may have some issues with Volstad. The biggest of which is the inability to freely option Volstad to Iowa. Instead, if the Cubs wanted to park Volstad in AAA for a little while, he’d first have to clear revocable waivers. Under normal circumstances, even with his struggles, there’s just no way he would clear waivers – there is too much upside for cheap. Revocable waivers with a player like Volstad, however, do not present normal circumstances. Because the Cubs can just pull Volstad back if he’s claimed, and teams know the Cubs would likely do just that, they are less likely to make a claim (on the thinking that all they’ll do is piss the Cubs off, who will, at some indefinite time in the future, return the favor). So, who knows? Maybe he could successfully make it through to AAA after all.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but let’s consider this a preview of the kind of complicated discussions the Cubs might soon have to have if Volstad doesn’t turn things around. And I didn’t even mention the bullpen.

  • Spencer

    :) :) :) :) :)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha. Oh, Spencer…

  • Njriv

    He is a good pitcher it just comes down to that one 5-run inning that is really frustrating. Other than that the other 4 have really been pitching at the elite level.

    • TWC

      I’m not picking on you, Njriv, I just think this argument is always a bit silly: “He’s not a sucky pitcher.  He’s actually really, really good when he’s not sucking.”

      • Njriv

        What I mean is that he is not constantly giving up runs every inning, he pitches decent except for one inning, like his outing on Saturday, he gave up one run in the first (which probably could have been avoided) and then he tossed up goose eggs until the sixth.Get what I’m sayin?

        • TWC

          Oh, I completely understood what you meant, I’m just not sure that I can buy the premise that he’s a “good pitcher”.  I don’t think good pitchers consistently give up 6 runs per outing, regardless of whether or not all the runs all come in one inning or not.  If we had a hitter that consistently hit 1 HR per game, but struck out in his other 4 plate appearances per game, would he be a “good hitter”?

          • Spencer

            yes.

            • TWC

              Really?

              • Spencer

                lol yeah, just based solely on what you said (and I know it was hyperbole and used to make a point (one with which I agree)), I would gladly take a hitter that was .200/.200/.800 with 162 HR and R and min. 162 RBI. Like I said, I know the point you’re making and I too, of course, think Volstad is poopy, but its kind of apples to oranges.

                • TWC

                  I have NEVER, EVER in my life used hyperbole.  EVER.  I’ve said this a million times.

                  • Wilbur

                    I can’t follow this thread any longer I’m getting dizzy …

                • MaxM1908

                  I agree I’d take that hitter. In addition to having 162 guaranteed HR’s, Runs, and RBI’s, it would be probable that a good portion of those HR’s would come with runners on base. I think that production would be great to have in the lineup. He’d have a 1.000 OPS. We could use a few more of those in our lineup.

          • Njriv

            Idk 162 HR’s would be impressive, j/k I know what you’re saying.

          • Cubbie Blues

            That would just be LaDiculous.

          • Still Love the Cubs

            Are you talking about Soriano from 3 years ago? :)

            • Njriv

              Thats what I was going to say, you beat me to it!

          • Patrick

            “If we had a hitter that consistently hit 1 HR per game, but struck out in his other 4 plate appearances per game, would he be a “good hitter”?”

            Yes. He would shatter the home run record and likely the RBI record. He would add 150+ runs to any team, making a 75 win team a 90 win team.

            EDIT to say: hit send too soon. I know that’s not your exact point. I think it’s better to say that in the course of a game, one bad inning is MUCH MORE IMPACTFUL (new official legit word as of today) than the 4 good innings.

            • Njriv

              I would take that, who wouldnt?

            • TWC

              Heh, well, I guess my analogy isn’t entirely appropriate.

              I might suggest that while there’s no doubt that a hitter who had my suggested attributes would be an colossal asset to a team, I’m still not sure whether or not he should be considered a “good hitter”.

              • Patrick

                Well, his BABIP would be 1.000, so maybe he would be considered lucky.

                • Cubbie Blues

                  Only on Sunday’s when it is overcast, one man on base and with a back-up catcher catching.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Actually, his BABIP would be a null set. Home runs aren’t included as “balls in play,” so he wouldn’t have a single ball in play upon which to calculate a BABIP.

        • hardtop

          i get what you’re saying: he’s inconsistent.

          unfortunately consitancy might be the greatest single attribute for a starter: to know what you are going to get is huge.  also, you dont have to have unbelievable stuff to be a great starter… as long as you demonstrate consistancy.

           

          what volstad does do consistently is loose his ability to locate for a minimum of 1 inning per start.  this is what you call consistently bad, or at least, not good enough to be a starting pitcher at the major league level.  im willing to give him another chance or two but i think the writing is on the wall.  we can only try to rationalize by excusing certain stats and other stats so long before we realize that’s just who the player is (ahem, cough, cough)

          • Njriv

            Yeah I think we should give Travis Wood some more opportunities, he didnt do all that bad against the Dodgers.

    • Cubbie Blues

      “He is a good pitcher it just comes down to that one 5-run inning that is really frustrating.”

      What part of this sentence looks like it doesn’t belong? My thought is the first part.

      He may have the potential to be a good pitcher but you don’t go out there and plop a big old fat turd on the field every game and still get to be called a good pitcher.

      • Njriv

        Sorry thats what I meant to say, he can be a good pitcher

        • Cubbie Blues

          I really wasn’t trying to jump on you. I had that up at work for a bit and didn’t see the other comment until I had submitted it.

          • Njriv

            Nah its fine, dont worry about it

    • art

      Njriv, 1 inning or 9, it’s total runs allowed.

      • Njriv

        got it, thanks

  • FromFenwayPahk

    Volstad, stop pitching out of the stretch. Give away second–get the guy holding the bat out, and the guy on base will not matter.

    Mechanics must be touchy for a tall guy (6’8″). Little changes must magnify out at the tips of those fingers 10 feet off the ground. Go with what you know, Chris.

    • hansman1982

      The only problem with that is the guy on first would be on third after 2 pitches. Get someone like Campana on base and you have just given up 3 SB and a run in 3 pitches.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Now, that sir would be fun to watch.

      • FromFenwayPahk

        Maybe, if, and you do have someone stealing home in your scenario. But, even then one run is not a big inning. Someone ran the numbers on this and found there was little value to holding a man on, especially when it takes the pitcher out of his groove. I read this in ’04 in Boston. I’ll try to dig it up.

        Edit: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2607

        …I think this is related to what I read. Joe Sheehan addresses the matter from the offenses POV.

  • ottoCub

    Would like to see the Cubs try Volstad in the bullpen. They certainly need the help there, and it seems if he stuck to his most effective pitches, he could be a good 1- to 2-inning guy. Maybe even a shut-down 8th or 9th inning pitcher? With the addition of Casey Coleman, the Cubs bullpen could start to take shape.

    Volstad could be replaced in the rotation by either Travis Wood or Randy Wells, depending on whether the Cubs want to add another lefty.

    • Spencer

      I would agree with the bullpen idea, except for the fact that a lot of time when you pitch out of the pen it is with guys on, which Volstad clearly struggles with.

      • ottoCub

        Good point. Looking at Volstad’s splits, his AVG-against, OBP-against, and SLG-against all shoot way up with runners on. They are even worse with runners in scoring position.

        It is interesting to see that his AVG-against and OBP-against drop as his pitch count rises. He’s never made it past 65 pitches this year.

        It’s also important to note that his starts have come against the Reds, Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers, and Cardinals; all of whom have potentially explosive offenses, especially if a sinker ain’t sinking.

        • ottoCub
          • Cubbie Blues

            +392 OPS when runners are on!

            By Situation AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB HBP SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
            None On 87 1 21 4 0 1 1 3 0 9 0 0 .241 .267 .322 .589
            Runners On 70 31 24 8 1 2 30 9 1 13 7 1 .343 .410 .571 .981
            • ottoCub

              Volstad must have some mechanical issues when he pitches out of the stretch. Or maybe he’s tipping pitches from the stretch. Another possible problem might be pitch selection with runners on, which is something the Cubs can (hopefully) much more easily correct. Whatever it is; If Volstad can’t start to correct these issues in the next start or two, the Cubs have other options: Wells and Wood at the top of the list.

              • rcleven

                “Another possible problem might be pitch selection with runners on, which is something the Cubs can (hopefully) much more easily correct.”

                Bingo.

            • hansman1982

              if he can clear waivers you tell him that ever time he pitches out of the windup he will be fined $10K. Clearly something is going wrong with his delivery out of the stretch or the previous outings are starting to snowball in his mind.

              Maybe DL him for 15 days to clear his mind if he turds up the 6th inning again.

            • Spencer

              those walks with runners on are troubling.

              • rcleven

                So are the strike outs. Not that he is getting em but it looks like he feels he needs to strike everybody out. Result is grooved pitch.

  • a_mazz_ing

    It is so frustrating to watch, just like everyone has said it’s ONE inning. It’s just like for an inning he forgets how to pitch, gives up 4-6 runs and then says “oh wait, let me get my head out of my rear” and gets back at it. I just don’t get it. Could be the delivery from the stretch as suggested or he could just be paranoid with guys on and it hinders his pitching b/c he’s trying to do too much now that guys are on. I would really like to see him go to AAA to work on it, but when he’s making peanuts, I doubt you see him clearing waivers.

  • Myles

    Here’s something cool. If you needed one easy to calculate stat to see how good a pitcher is doing in the things they can control, you could tons worse than SO/BB. It’s actually my favorite pitching stat, and it makes a sick school-like sense to it. It’ll rarely be over 4 or under 2, so you can use it like a GPA. (The NL average right now? 2.36, or a B-).

    Dempster: 3.60 (A-)
    Samardzija: 3.21 (B+)
    Garza: 2.60 (B-)
    Maholm: 1.89 (C)
    Volstad: 1.83 (C)

    Basically, SO/BB is a lot of what makes up FIP, which is hard to calculate compared to this. This is reverse FIP, though, because you want a higher number, but it still makes sense because of school.

    EDIT: Also, there are 18 “honors” students right now, who have a 4.0 or above!

    Top 10:
    Colby Lewis, 7.17 (Stephen Hawking)
    Bronson Arroyo, 6.60 (Neil DeGrasse Tyson)
    Jake Peavy, 6.29 (Carl Sagan)
    Cole Hamels, 5.44 (Socrates)
    Matt Cain, 5.33 (Erwin Schrodinger)
    CC Sabathia, 5.30 (Adam Smith)
    Stephen Strasburg, 5.10 (Soren Kierkegaard) (which I spelled correctly on the first try)
    Jered Weaver, 4.90 (Friedrich Nietzche)
    Joe Blanton, 4.67 (Leonardo Da Vinci)
    Justin Verlander, 4.67 (Archimedes)

    • a_mazz_ing

      Pretty cool stuff. Thanks for that.

    • Spencer

      i like this.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Of course, Cain (Schrodinger) also has a 0.67. We just won’t know which one he will ultimately have until we look.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      “Jered Weaver, 4.90 (Friedrich Nietzche)”

      Nietzche in the Top 10?  Nietzche?

      I mean, seriously, Nietzche?

      • hardtop

        “There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ‘ya ’bout the raising of the wrist….”

      • Myles

        Nolan Ryan is struck out. Nolan Ryan remains struck out. And we have K’d him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the K’er of all K’ers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet swung and missed at has been caught looking under our sliders: who will wipe this blood off us? What pine tar is there for us to doctor our pitches? What jumbotrons of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this strikeout too filthy for us? Must we ourselves not become Nolan Ryans simply to appear worth of it?

        -Friedrich Nietzsche, Cubs Fan

        • Ogyu

          That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

          -Friedrich Nietzsche, Cubs Fan

  • RY34

    best news i have heard all day!

  • rcleven

    Revocable waivers seems to be the key here. Use it to your advantage if that is direction FO decides to go.
    Cubs have plenty of options to go in a different direction. Non are a great improvement over what we already have.
    Vol has the talent. I can see that. Problems are more between the ears. Changing his grip on pitches is not going to help. Just needs to keep his concentration up when things go wrong.

  • willis

    This seems simple to me. The kid has stuff. Pretty decent stuff. Just can’t get many innings in before he implodes. So, forget moving him to Iowa, move him to the pen, send Castillo back to the hell hole his sorry ass came from, bring up Wells, Wood or Rusin, and go with it. If one of the three crap the bed, fine, you gave it a chance. Bring up the next one, and then the next one. Out of one of those three, odds are very good at least one can be more effective than Volstad.

    Playing with a 24 man roster with a starter who is good for 5-6 ER every start is tough. Just give back Castillo and see what Volstad can do out of the pen. And only bring him in to start innings. Done. Simple.

    • Njriv

      I understand why the Cubs like Castillo, he has potential but he cant even throw strikes, there is no point wasting a roster spot on him if he going to be used once every 3 weeks.

      • rcleven

        All ready have comitted so much time to the kid. Stick to plan to keep Lendy around. Only have to keep on roster another 2 1/2 weeks more till he can be DLed.

      • willis

        I don’t even know if I see much potential. He’s got an ok arm but nothing too exciting. He is simply a waste of a spot and serves no purpose being on this roster. Keeping him out of Spring was a mistake. Kepping him still is a mistake. And it has cost this team thus far.

        • rcleven

          What has it cost? 3 wins? He will be gone in less than three weeks.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            One win… sort of.

            With the exception of the extra inning affair in Milwaukee, Lendy Castillo has only entered a game when the Cubs were behind by at least three.  Look it up.

            http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=castile01&t=p&year=

            The Cubs lost those games, but we can’t blame those losses on Castillo.  As the bullpen’s go to guy for blow out garbage innings, he’s fine.  And with the emergency exception in Milwaukee, that’s all he’s been all season.

            • rcleven

              “With the exception of the extra inning affair in Milwaukee, Lendy Castillo has only entered a game when the Cubs were behind by at least three.”

              Directly there is 0 loss to blame on Lendy. Where the loss lies is in the roster spot taken up that a capable pitcher could have been used to put fires out. So I’ll stick with my 3.

          • BN Virgin

            Exactly. He’s 19 and has never pitched above A-ball. They knew he was going to struggle. He may have cost a couple games but, how many has Marmol cost? Wood? Soriano’s inability to hit? Soto’s inability to hit? The difference is he’s got a lot of potential for improvement. These other guys have already experienced their best days.

          • Deer

            I believe the Cubs are 0-7 in his starts. It matters. Oops, thought u were talking about Volstad : )

  • Myles

    apropos of nothing, A Tribe Called Quest is great and everyone should listen to them

    • TWC

      apropos of… well, this, I completely agree with Myles.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I prefer a Quest Called Tribe.

      • hardtop

        thats a joke right?  there isnt really a rap group called quest called tribe is there?

        my first car was a 74 dodge dart.. the plates were tribe 74….really.

        (well first running car anyway)

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    Well… I will give my vote for the bullpen. 5 great innings and 1 blowup. Easy to control. You start to see the blowup and you get him out as quick as possible. You then buy yourself 5 great innings. Better than what our current bullpen is providing.

  • Steve

    I would just like to add that this forum is so much more civilized than every other site I’ve belonged to.
    Even when discussions get a little heated, the gloves stay on.

    To me. that’s what its all about…we may disagree, but in the end, we are Cub fans.

    • CastrotoBarneytoLaHair

      I guess you weren’t around on Saturday morning….Ugh..

  • Cubs Dude

    Can someone explain the Lendy Castillo situation? He has to spend the year on the major league team, or he will be sent back to Philly? But he can be put in the minors next year without Philly taking him back? Having him puts a toll on the rest of the pen, since he can’t be trusted.

    • BN Virgin

      Yes, that is it in a nutshell. I believe, however, that after 90(?) days the Cubs can DL him for the remainder of the season and then keep him. 90 days may not be accurate, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.

      • Cubs Dude

        That’s crazy. I guess if a team is ever going to do something like that, this would be the year. But it seems like a big pain in the ass…

        • BN Virgin

          This is definitely a good year for it.

      • Cubs Dude

        When they DL Lendy for the rest of the year. Is he allowed to pitch anywhere the rest of this year?

    • calicubsfan007

      I think BN Virgin is right, but Doc would probably know without a doubt. I personally don’t like the Castillo situation, because it cheated guys like Maine from being able to pitch in the majors. And Maine was doing great for the Cubs.

      • BN Virgin

        It is kind of a sucky situation. It definitely weakens the bullpen. However, Theo has stated that he’s interested in building for the future. I think at this point we keep him up for another month and a half and hope he can be a contributor in the near future. I’m fairly certain Johan Santana was a Rule 5 guy. Hopefully we can be as fortunate.

        • calicubsfan007

          Yeah, you are right. He was initially drafted by the Astros and was unprotected for the Rule 5 draft. But I don’t like the idea of a rule 5 draft, it really hurt our minor league teams this year. And the two guys we got were either cut or stuck on a roster like a sore thumb in a bullpen that isn’t do so hot to begin with.

  • calicubsfan007

    This is incredibly disappointing, Volstad was expected to be a solid middle of the rotation starter. I was one of those people who kept saying that Volstad will snap out of the slump, any minute now, any minute now. He really needs to dominate this next start, or he will be demoted.

    • ty

      As Volstad continues being the same after numerous coaches–how about turning him into a side arm delivery specialist–with his height and long arms coming at batters from that angle. He may not have anything to lose.

  • oswego chris

    I would give Volsatd another 4 or 5 starts before doing anything….rushed to the majors at a young age…I see no huge upgrade available…Wells or T. Wood…

    • calicubsfan007

      Just curious, is your proflie picture of Clint Eastwood?

    • Njriv

      Chris Arch… oh wait

      • calicubsfan007

        I am sad that he is gone, but we got Garza out of the deal. Although Hendry overpaid, we did get our ace.

        • JulioZuleta

          I don’t know about that. It may have seemed like it at the time, but if we do decide to trade Garza, I have very little doubt that the package will beat the package that we gave up. Lee is struggling mightily, Archer is walking 6 per 9, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer are 5th and 4th outfielders respectively, and Robinson Chirinos is going to be a 28 year old AAA catcher when he recovers from injury.

          If the Tigers struggle, and the Turner, Castellanos + package ever hits the table, I say take it and run.

          • ty

            Julio–hated to see Lee go because he could make the flashiest plays at deep short or come on the other side of second–but weak bat-real weak. Archer should make it someday and just one of the nicest kids in the org.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Archer isn’t ready to go right now anyway.

      • BN Virgin

        I hated to see Archer go as well. But, fwiw he isn’t exactly tearing up AAA. He currently has an ERA of 4.71. He appears to be having some issues with control. 28 walks in 42 innings.

  • Andy

    Brett, you think Rusin has the lowest ceiling out of the names you mentioned? Seems to me he and Wood have a higher ceiling than Coleman and especially Wells, who’s time should be up.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Coleman’s the only one I might agree with you about. Wells has already demonstrated his ceiling – a 3+ WAR pitcher in the big leagues. I would be SHOCKED if Rusin ever does that (pleasantly shocked). And, as for Wood, I think he can be a very good big league starter, and has demonstrated that ability. Keep in mind, Wood is five months YOUNGER than Rusin.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Rusin is more of the crafty lefty type of pitcher, and those guys can be tough to project.  Some of them get knocked around on a regular basis and never put together great seasons, but others seem to turn in quality start after quality start, year after year after year, and no one is quite sure how they do it.  If Rusin is in that second category, he’ll be the Cubs’ fifth starter for a long time.  Until he gets an extended shot in the majors, though, there is no sure way to tell.

      If Volstad loses his job, T. Wood would be my first choice to rejoin the rotation.  But if Maholm is then traded in July, I’d like to see Rusin take his place for the remainder of the season.

      • Cubs Dude

        So is G. Concepcion’s celing Chris Rusin?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          More likely Paul Maholm.

          • Cubs Dude

            OK, i would take that.

  • die hard

    maybe Marmol needs to come back after rehab as 5th starter…hes overthrowing and may need to tire out the arm as a starter..Fergie Jenkins did likewise and rest is history

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