Hard to deny trade appeal of Dempster

ST. LOUIS -- There is no way Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster doesn’t look attractive to contenders who will need pitching help in the second half.

The issue, of course, is how much those contenders are willing to offer the Cubs in return for the right-hander, who is still scheduled to take the mound for the Cubs on Friday night at St. Louis.

Complicating matters is the fact that Dempster becomes a free agent at the end of the season and might not return next season to the team that gets him in a trade.

With indications that the Los Angeles Dodgers have considered the Cubs’ asking price too high for Dempster at this point of the negotiating process, the following is a breakdown of what a club would be getting if they traded for the Cubs’ veteran pitcher:

• The most well known number associated with Dempster, heading into his start Friday is 33. That is the number of consecutive scoreless innings he has pitched. It is the longest scoreless streak for a Cubs pitcher since 1969 when Ken Holtzman also threw 33 consecutive scoreless innings. The only Cubs pitcher with a longer scoreless streak is Bill Lee. In 1938, Lee had scoreless streaks of 35 and 37 innings.

• Since 1912 only one pitcher has delivered more consecutive scoreless starts than the five Dempster currently has. In 1968, the Dodgers' Don Drysdale went six starts without allowing a run. Dempster’s five are tied with Brandon Webb in 2007 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Orel Hershiser in 1988 with the Dodgers and Bob Gibson in 1968 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

• Dempster’s fastball has been located better than ever of late. According to ESPN Stats & Information, one of every four fastballs in his last five starts has been thrown to the horizontal middle third of the plate, compared to one of every three in his first nine starts. Over those last five starts, opponents are batting .154 against Dempster’s fastball, compared to .278 in his first nine starts.

• It obviously hasn’t hurt Dempster that the Cubs' defense is playing well behind him, so keep note of contenders who can field the ball. Cubs fielders have caught 32 of the 35 fly balls hit against Dempster during his scoreless streak. The defense has also caught six of the 14 line drives. That's more of a nod to the Cubs' defense than it is to Dempster.

• And one more note: The current 33 scoreless innings streak is the second of Dempster’s career that went at least 30 innings. He had a 30 1/3-inning streak as a reliever between the 2005 and 2006 seasons. According to Elias, he is the first pitcher in modern baseball history to streaks of 30 or more innings as a starter and a reliever.