Chris Volstad of the Chicago Cubs reacts to a balk call during the 6-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Chris Volstad, who starts for the Cubs against the Reds on Sunday, hasn't won a game in his last 23 starts, leaving him just five short of the record. Is Volstad really so terrible, though?
Last Tuesday night, Volstad lost. To the Astros, no less.
This was not exactly new news. In the last 13 months, Volstad has started 23 games. He's lost 14 of those, while winning zero of them. Which leaves him ... well, still short of a record but probably not as short as he would like. From the Times:
Volstad is closing in on a record that he probably does not want to reach: for consecutive starting losses. Three pitchers, Jo-Jo Reyes, Matt Keogh and Cliff Curtis, all went 28 games without a starting win.
Reyes was the most recent, stuck in his futility streak from 2008 to 2011.
Volstad, 25, is in his fourth year in the majors, and has not yet shown consistency as a winning starter. He became a Cub in January 2012, traded for Carlos Zambrano. Volstad is making $2.65 million this season, and the Cubs, adding insult to injury, are still on the hook for a lot of Zambrano’s $18 million paycheck.
Before we go any farther, I should point out the difference between "consecutive starting losses" and "28 games without a starting win" ... which is that there's a difference. I don't actually know what the record for "consecutive starting losses" is, but I'm sure it's many fewer than 28. Volstad's longest streak of "starting losses" this season is just five. That doesn't sound so bad!
The odd thing about Volstad is that he's not terrible. Yes, that's an odd thing to suggest about a pitcher who's gone more than a year without winning. Especially when he's got a 6.96 ERA this season. But Volstad's other statistics suggest an ERA right around 4.50 rather than 7. That's a big difference, and may be attributed almost entirely to poor luck.
Not coincidentally, Volstad's career statistics suggest an ERA right around 4.50, which in turn suggests that the Chris Volstad who's gone winless in 23 straight starts is the same Chris Volstad as ever: not good enough to win much, but good enough to start in the major leagues for roughly half the teams.
And let us not forget that Volstad was, for some years, considered an outstanding prospect. Beginning in 2007, he was ranked as the 90th, 40th, and 58th best prospect in Baseball America's annual Top 100 list. That's really impressive, and that No. 58 ranking came just three years ago.
Volstad turns 26 next month. You probably think he's pitching for the Cubs merely because they're running out of pitchers. Perhaps. But Chris Volstad might be a stealth pitcher. One of these seasons, he might rediscover the talent he flashed in the minors for years. He probably won't break any records, ill or good. But he might win 15 games in a season someday.