Somebody else is going to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. The conventional Cubbie wisdom is that Ted Lilly is the clear-cut MVP of the staff. Ask most Cub fans about the biggest bright spot of the year, and they'll probably tell you Derrek Lee's return to form as a power hitter and RBI machine was the crowning jewel on this otherwise thorny season's head gear.
But for me, Randy Wells has been the 2009 Cubs' ace and its most significant agent of redemption. (He's not the NL Rookie of the Year, but he's in the top 5, for sure.)
Looking just at the numbers, you'll see that Wells and Lilly are tied with 12 wins (Ryan Dempster could join them with a win in the finale). They each have 27 starts. Lilly has pitched 11 2/3 more innings.Wells has the edge in the ERA column (3.05 to Lilly's 3.10). Lilly has one less loss (9) than the rookie, and a lower WHIP (1.06 to Wells's 1.41). But Wells also yields a lower slugging percentage (.365) than TRL (.393) and has given up 8 fewer homers (14/22). I'd say you can call the stats a draw.
The reason I give the (very slight) pitching edge to Wells is the simple fact that he didn't miss starts. After the All Star break and in late September, Lilly missed some starts, had some surgery, and probably saved the free world from a terrorist attack. Wells missed games until late May because he wasn't on the team. In the end, I award the better excuse trophy to Randy.
But more than that, Randy Wells really saved the emotion of this season for me. When he first took the mound, I severely doubted his potential. He just didn't look like a guy who was going to win you many games. Once he started willing his way through lineups, attacking the strike zone as if to say, "Screw this paint the black garbage, I'm hungry for outs," he looked like a winner. But he didn't win.
Despite giving up just 12 runs in his first 7 starts (good for a 2.55 ERA) Wells didn't notch a win until his 8th start of the season. But he didn't let it bother him. He never allowed the failures of his bullpen and offense disrupt his consistent pitching performance. And he now has a share of the team lead in wins to show for it.
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Derrek Lee this season, don't get me wrong. But every time Wells pitched, I was particularly excited to see what he might do. He impressed me well above my expectations. So did Lilly. So did Lee. But the excitement level of seeing the kid do it--after not even knowing his name heading into spring training--will be the single most positive memory I hold onto from this season.