Randy Wells is a rookie, so it's a bit unfair to expect most casual fans to know who he is. But despite his rookie status, the guy has been the Cubs best pitcher and is in the top five in the National League in ERA+. Pretty darn good for a guy who was drafted by the Cubs in the 38th round in 2002...as a catcher.
Wells is 26 years old and has been in professional baseball for seven years. His year for the Cubs is totally unexpected and is a really neat story. His minor league numbers were decent enough. Nothing earth shattering, but good. The Blue Jays claimed him in the Rule V draft in 2008 because the Cubs didn't think enough of him to put him on the 40 man roster. In order to keep a Rule V pick, the claiming team has to keep the player in the majors the entire season. If they designate the player for assignment, he reverts back to his original team. The Blue Jays kept him for the entire 2008 Spring Training and he went with the club to Toronto. He made it into one game for the Blue Jays and pitched an inning in relief against the Red Sox and gave up a walk, but was otherwise unscathed. But the Blue Jays designated him. Doh!
So Wells went back to the Cubs AAA team where he went 10-4 with a 3.75 ERA. He got a call up from the Cubs and pitched in three games (all in relief) and threw 4.1 scoreless innings with a couple of walks and a strikeout. Nothing earth bending, right? But he finished the year with a big fat goose egg for an ERA.
Wells then started AAA again this year and started 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA there when Carlos Zambrano went down with an injury. The Cubs gave him a jingle and the rest is history.
Wells doesn't strike out a lot of people. His per nine innings rate is only 5.4. But he doesn't walk many either. For a young pitcher, he gets the ball over the plate. He's been a bit lucky has his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is only .286, but he keeps his team in the game, keeps his pitch count down and throws more ground ball outs than anything else. His breakdown of results are as follows:
Fly balls: 27.6%
Line Drives: 15.2%
He's given up only 12 homers, so the figures appear to indicate that batters don't square the ball up very often against him. He has received no decisions on three games where he gave up two runs or less and four of his losses came when he gave up two runs or less. That's a bit unlucky too. Sixteen of his 22 starts have been quality starts and he has given up more than four runs only once all year. That's great pitching.
It's funny how some times these great years happen by accident. If the Blue Jays had kept him, if Zambrano hadn't gotten hurt, if he had stayed a catcher, this year wouldn't have happened. That it has is a really cool story.