Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Preview, Tuesday 5/3, 9:10 CT: Happy Birthday, Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs turns 34 today. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Given that birthdays are, for the most part, evenly distributed throughout the year, and that the baseball season lasts six months of that year, it's got to be fairly rare for a starting pitcher to get a start on his birthday, since a starter only appears in approximately one-fifth of his team's games.

But that is what we will see tonight, as Ryan Dempster celebrates his 34th birthday by taking the mound against the Dodgers. It is, oddly enough, the first time Dempster will ever appear in a major league game on his birthday; even during the three years he spent as the Cubs' closer, he did not appear in a game on May 3.

A number of years ago, the authors of Freakonomics posted two articles (and this eventually appeared in one of their books) suggesting that age cutoffs for youth sports programs skews the birth dates of those who are more successful at the highest levels of professional sports. This doesn't appear to apply to baseball, at least after a somewhat random search of birthdays on baseball-reference.com; 34 major league players were born on this date (through all of MLB history). For the third day of every month (just to pick one random day in a month, using the third because it's today):

January 3: 55
February 3: 37
March 3: 48
April 3: 41
May 3: 34
June 3: 39
July 3: 53
August 3: 46
September 3: 45
October 3: 54
November 3: 45
December 3: 55

Looks pretty evenly distributed to me. Of course, this includes players who were in MLB long before any "cutoff date" for any youth baseball program was established. So maybe this doesn't work in baseball. Or maybe it's just a random topic to discuss on a day when we'd rather not think about the losses from the last two days.

Happy Birthday, Demp. Now go out there and win.

There is one other bit of news today: Darwin Barney was named NL Rookie of the Month for April. Congratulations. Keep up the good work.

Cubs lineup:

Fukudome RF, Barney 2B, Castro SS, Ramirez 3B, Byrd CF, Peña 1B, Soriano LF, Soto C, Dempster P

Dodgers lineup:

Carroll SS, Sands LF, Ethier RF, Kemp CF, Uribe 3B, Loney 1B, Barajas C, Miles 2B, Billingsley P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Chad Billingsley
Chad Billingsley
Dodgers
1-3 W-L 2-1
9.58 ERA 4.46
29 SO 30
16 BB 14
9 HR 2
vs. LA -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Ryan Dempster 1-3 6 6 0 0 0 0 31.0 42 34 33 9 16 29 9.58 1.87


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Chad Billingsley 2-1 6 6 0 0 0 0 34.1 33 18 17 2 14 30 4.46 1.37

Ryan Dempster's last start was just bad. So let's forget about that and take a look at what he's done career-wise vs. the Dodgers. Before his last outing against LA on April 23 at Wrigley Field, he had three straight starts (in 2009 and 2010) against them where he did not allow an earned run in 22 innings, with only six hits allowed. That'd be nice to replicate tonight. Andre Ethier, riding that 28-game hitting streak, is a Dempster nemesis: 7-for-19 (.368), four doubles, a HR.

Chad Billingsley was the beneficiary of the Dodgers' 12-run outburst against the Cubs on April 22 at Wrigley Field. He threw 6.1 credible innings and then let the bullpen mop things up. Not that past Cub player performances mean much these days, but Aramis Ramirez is 5-for-16 (.313) against him with a double and triple.

Today's game is on WGN and Prime Ticket LA. Those of you outside Chicago with EI get the privilege of hearing Vin Scully. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Dodgers site True Blue LA.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 9 p.m. CDT (this time for sure!) and the overflow threads will post at 10 pm, 11 pm and 11:45 pm CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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