Non-Tender Candidate: Chris Volstad

Chris Volstad’s most recent start provided a reminder of two things: that Volstad can pitch effectively against MLB offenses, and that it’s been a long time since he did so with much regularity. The 6’8” right-hander faced a Dodgers lineup including Shane Victorino, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez over the weekend and limited Los Angeles to two runs on six hits in seven innings. Yet Saturday's start was Volstad's first seven-inning outing of the season, and the first game in which he allowed fewer than three earned runs.

It’s been a disappointing season for Volstad to this point, and he will be a non-tender candidate this coming offseason. When the Cubs acquired Volstad from Miami for Carlos Zambrano, he seemed capable of providing value at the back of Chicago's rotation by making his starts, limiting walks and inducing ground balls. He had averaged 29 starts per season in the three years preceding the trade while posting a 4.88 ERA, accumulating twice as many strikeouts as walks, and generating more than his share of ground balls.

However, the results have been disappointing so far in 2012. Volstad opened the season in Dale Sveum's rotation, then got demoted after posting a 7.46 ERA through eight starts. He joined the rotation at Triple-A Iowa, posting an unremarkable 5.17 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 12 starts in the Pacific Coast League. The Cubs recalled him from Iowa last week, so he has the chance to prove he belongs at the MLB level — now and in 2013.

Volstad earns $2.66MM this year and he’ll get a raise through the arbitration process if the Cubs tender him a contract next winter. He has pitched enough innings at the MLB level this year that he projects to obtain a $3.1MM salary in 2013, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Yes, he’s on track for a $450K raise despite a career-high 7.22 ERA, a diminished strikeout rate and an unsightly 0-8 record. The Cubs must decide between now and the middle of December whether another season of Volstad is worth $3MM-plus.

Though his stat line isn’t pretty, bad luck may be a contributing factor to Volstad’s season — to an extent. Opponents are hitting .319 on balls in play against Volstad, a career high. It's an indication that he isn't getting much help from luck or Chicago’s defenders. No MLB pitcher has a lower strand rate than Volstad, who allows nearly half of baserunners to score (min. 50 IP). Though he's probably due for some regression, it's not uncommon for pitchers who have trouble generating swings and misses to allow a relatively high percentage of baserunners to score. And if any MLB pitcher has trouble inducing swings and misses, it’s Volstad. He generates the lowest percentage of swinging strikes among the 192 MLB pitchers with at least 50 innings in 2012 (4.6%, tied with Bartolo Colon and Henderson Alvarez). In other words, it’d be overly optimistic to say Volstad's numbers are simply a product of bad luck. 

Volstad’s in the rotation for now, which means he has the chance to string together some more strong starts before the season ends. But if he fails to impress, the Cubs may choose to non-tender Volstad this winter and look elsewhere to strengthen the back of their rotation.

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9 Comments on "Non-Tender Candidate: Chris Volstad"

3 years 29 days ago

Best. Pitcher. Ever.

3 years 29 days ago

Looks like nobody won that trade

3 years 29 days ago

Make him a reliever

3 years 29 days ago

I don’t think that would work. It seems like a lot of his problems stem from when he pitches out of the stretch.

3 years 29 days ago

The problem is that he’s on the mound period.

3 years 29 days ago

Everyone has a good game every now and then, look at Jo-Jo Reyes, still doesn’t mean he deserves more than a minor league contract. But as the case with many other pitchers, throw him in Petco and see how it works out.

3 years 29 days ago

I’ll preface this by saying that under no circumstances do I think the Cubs should tender him an offer, but why on earth would he be in line for a RAISE?? As I understand it, even under the new CBA, teams are allowed to offer as little as 80% of the current year’s contract value as an offer to an arbitration eligible player. Wouldn’t that be the MOST that the Cubs should offer Volstad? “He was AWFUL in 2012. We offer $2.13M.” Then his agent says, “He wasn’t THAT awful. We think he’s worth $3.1M.” Since Shyam Das is no longer an arbitrator, my guess is the new guy will say, “Um, he really was that bad. $2.13M.”

3 years 29 days ago

I came here to post the same thing. This is retarded that he’s even eligible for a raise. He’s sucking it up, the Cubs should take some of his money away for 2013.

3 years 29 days ago

odd decent game every few starts now, but yeah.. Nothing great.

Watched a few..Like 3 or so of Volstad’s games. He has not had his curve going in any and as you remember.. Volstad with no curve isn’t anything.