Archive for the ‘ All-Star Game ’ Category

1000 Words: Bryant and Baez, Friendly Foes

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(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

During Sunday’s MLB Futures Game, which pits the top international prospects with the best American talents, Cubs prospect Javier Baez ripped a home run in the sixth inning to put the World Team ahead. As the Puerto Rican-born shortstop rounded rounded third, his Iowa Cubs teammate Kris Bryant (representing the U.S. Team) applauded his efforts. Baez finished 1-for-2 with the homer, while Bryant went 0-for-3 with a walk.

After a slow start to the season, Baez has picked up the pace. He wrapped up the first half hitting .240/.305/.449 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers at Triple-A Iowa. In 92 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Bryant is hitting .346/.444/.701 with 31 homers and 81 RBI.

 

 

Now Playing: Castro and Rizzo are ready for the 2014 All-Star Game

The heart of the Cubs order will be on hand for Tuesday night’s 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis, as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo will represent the North Siders in the Midsummer Classic.

Despite just being 24 years old, Castro is already participating in his third All-Star Game. After struggling for much of 2013, the shortstop has bounced back this season, hitting .276/.326/.440 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 11 home runs and 52 RBI.

Joining Castro in the NL dugout is first baseman Rizzo, who is making his first All-Star appearance. The National League’s Final Vote winner has hit 20 home runs (third in the NL) to go along with his .275/.381/.499 line and is quickly earning comparisons to some of the game’s top first basemen.

Castro and Rizzo spoke to Vine Line this week about what it means to be selected to the All-Star Game.

Castro, Samardzija elected to NL All-Star team; Rizzo needs your votes

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Sunday night, it was announced that Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was elected to the 2014 National League All-Star team. It’s the third All-Star selection of his major league career, and Castro will represent the Cubs at the 85th Major League All-Star Game Tuesday, July 15 at Minnesota’s Target Field.

Like Castro, right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija was also elected to the NL squad by way of the player vote. While Samardzija is eligible to attend and participate in All-Star activities and will receive full NL All-Star honors and recognition, he will be ineligible to play for the NL team due to his recent trade to the Oakland Athletics.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo is one of five players nominated for the NL’s 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote ballot. Fans can now vote to select the final player for each league’s roster via cubs.com, MLB.com and on their mobile phones (fans can text the choice “N4” to 89269 to vote for Rizzo). Voting concludes at 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, July 10.

The 24-year-old Castro becomes only the third shortstop in franchise history to be selected to at least three All-Star teams, joining Ernie Banks (nine times as a shortstop) and Don Kessinger (six times). He is one of only six shortstops to be named an All-Star in franchise history, joining the aforementioned Banks and Kessinger, Billy Jurges (once), Woody English (once) and Shawon Dunston (twice), who was the most-recent Cubs shortstop to earn All-Star recognition (in 1990) leading up to Castro’s first All-Star season in 2011.

In 2011, Castro became the youngest player in franchise history to be named to an All-Star team at age 22. In 2012, he became the first Cubs shortstop to be named to the All-Star team in consecutive seasons since Don Kessinger’s five-year run from 1968-72.  Castro, Dunston and Kessinger are the only three Cubs shortstops to earn All-Star honors in the last 50 years.

Castro entered play on Sunday batting .290 with 26 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 50 RBI while starting every game at shortstop for the Cubs. He entered the day leading all major league shortstops with 38 extra-base hits and was one of only four players in baseball with 12 games of three or more hits.

Samardzija, 29, departed the Cubs with a 2-7 record and a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts this season. This is Samardzija’s first career All-Star honor. He is the first right-handed pitcher to earn All-Star honors for the Cubs since Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano were all named to the NL team in 2008.

The 24-year-old Rizzo entered play on Sunday leading all NL first basemen with 17 home runs and was tied for the NL lead with 14 home runs since April 30. He ranked first among league first basemen in walks (50), was tied for first with 16 go-ahead RBI and was fourth with an .873 OPS. Overall, he was batting .274 with 13 doubles, one triple, 17 home runs and 45 RBI in 84 games.

Besides using the web to vote for the final player for each league’s 34-man roster, fans can use their mobile phones to cast votes via the mobile web at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian mobile ballot, text the word “VOTE” to 89269.  To vote specifically for Rizzo, text the choice “N4” to 89269. Standard message and data rates may apply.  Text “STOP” to end and “HELP” for information.  Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1930s—Billy Herman

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For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the highest Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the third installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, the 1930s provided a second baseman who saw his fair share of All-Star Games and provided a boost at the plate.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander

1930s – Billy Herman, 37.6

Seasons: 1931-39
AVG/OBP/SLG: .312/.368/.422
PA: 5,505
HR: 32
R: 794
RBI: 520
SB: 52

In 1935, second baseman Billy Herman compiled a 7.3 WAR. To put that into perspective, Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 Triple Crown season was good for a 6.8 WAR. Known for his defense, Herman had 466 putouts at second base in 1933, an NL record that still stands today. But his offensive output from the middle infield was equally impressive. In eight 1930s seasons on the North Side, he hit .300 or better six times, including a .341 average in his most productive season of 1935. The second baseman went to an All-Star Game in each of the last six years of the 1930s and was named a starter from 1935-38. Herman was a part of three Cubs World Series teams in the decade and was top 10 in the NL in WAR three times. In 1975, he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1920s—Grover Cleveland Alexander

Alexander

For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the best Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the second installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, the 1920s saw one of the game’s greatest arms spend most of the decade on Chicago’s North Side.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn

1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander, 28.8 WAR

Seasons: 1920-26
Win-Loss: 110-71
Games-Games Started: 209-193
IP: 1623.1
K: 478
K/9: 2.65
ERA: 3.02

Grover Cleveland Alexander’s best days were already behind him by the 1920s. From his debut in 1911 through 1919, he averaged more than 300 innings per season and went 208-100 with a 2.09 ERA. Still, the Cubs got a pretty solid arm when they acquired Alexander from the Phillies in 1918. He won 27 games, put up a 1.91 ERA, made 40 starts, threw 33 complete games, logged 363.1 innings and fanned 173 batters in 1920. All of those numbers led the league for the year. In his seven 1920s seasons with the team, Old Pete’s ERA was never higher than 3.63, and he won 15 games or more five times. In 1938, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, receiving more than 80 percent of the vote on his third attempt.

10 Decades, 10 Cubs Legends: 1910s—Hippo Vaughn

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The following appears in the July issue of Vine Line.

The 100 Years of Wrigley Field celebration is in full swing on the North Side. Every time fans venture into the Friendly Confines this season, they’re not only treated to Cubs baseball, but they also come away with a bit of a history lesson.

In 2014, Wrigley-goers have gotten to see throwback uniforms, retro toys and a guest list that has included people with ties to the baseball cathedral’s storied past. All of this is part of the Cubs’ 10 Decades, 10 Homestands promotion, which celebrates a different decade at each of 10 home series.

For Vine Line‘s annual All-Star issue, we decided to piggyback on the decade-by-decade concept to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. Our goal was to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in the stadium’s history. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the best Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and quantifies them into a single number designed to summarize that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). According to Fangraphs, WAR basically asks the question, “If a player got injured and his team had to replace him with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would they be losing?” The final number is expressed as a win total, so if Ryne Sandberg earned a 7.4 WAR in 1992, that means he was worth 7.4 wins to the Cubs.

For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

Some players who made the cut didn’t receive a ton of recognition for their efforts in Cubbie blue, while a few Hall of Famers are noticeably absent. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out the decade leaders one by one.

We start off the 10-part series with a right-hander who dominated for the North Side squad in the 1910s.

1910s – Hippo Vaughn, 32.0 WAR

Seasons: 1913-19
Win-Loss: 129-78
Games-Games Started: 248-218
IP: 1806.0
K: 977
K/9: 4.90
ERA: 2.08

It takes just a glance at Hippo Vaughn’s numbers to see how thoroughly he dominated his era. From 1914-19, he won 21, 20, 17, 23, 22 and 21 games. Of course, wins aren’t the end-all, be-all of pitching stats, but 124 victories over six seasons is still rather impressive. The 1918 season was probably his best, as he led the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. Vaughn’s most famous start was actually a game he lost in 1917, when he and Reds pitcher Fred Toney both had no-hitters going through nine innings. Over the course of the decade, the southpaw’s overall WAR total is second among all NL pitchers. Never one to surrender the long ball, Vaughn’s .09 home runs per nine innings is the decade’s lowest total for a pitcher who threw more than 700 innings.

Alcantara enjoying success in 2013

alcantara

(Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

While Travis Wood is representing the Cubs major league team in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, Double-A Tennessee middle-infielder Arismendy Alcantara got an opportunity to represent the organization’s minor leaguers in last Sunday’s Futures Game, a showcase pitting the top American-born prospects against the rest of the world’s elite minor league talents. And the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Dominican native made his presence known.

Batting second and playing second base, the Cubs prospect knotted the game at 1-1 in the third inning, blasting a 93-mph fastball out of the park for a home run off of Red Sox prospect Anthony Ranaudo. He finished the day 1-for-3 in five innings of play, as the World dropped a 4-2 decision.

In the July issue of Vine Line, we noted Alcantara’s stellar play in the first half, calling him one of the organization’s top performers thus far in 2013.

Alcantara was having a breakout year at Daytona in 2012, hitting .302/.339/.447 with seven home runs, when a leg injury cut his season short. But he has come back healthy in 2013 and picked up right where he left off—or at a higher level. At just 21 years old, Alcantara is young for Double-A, but he’s showing he’s up for the challenge, compiling a slash line of .280/.354/.475 with 13 home runs and 23 doubles so far this season. He is a very athletic player with power from both sides of the plate and a plus runner who has the ability to steal bases (22 stolen bases and only three caught stealing so far this season)—and he does all this while playing a premium position. The switch-hitter came into the season as a player to watch. If he continues to perform at this level, he’ll end the year as one of the Cubs’ better prospects.

1000 Words: Travis Wood, All-Star

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Left-handed starter Travis Wood will represent the Cubs in the 2013 All-Star Game Tuesday night. Even though Wood threw on Sunday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the 26-year-old is available to pitch tonight at NL manager Bruce Bochy’s discretion.

Wood, who has a 6-6 record this year, has quickly emerged as one of baseball’s toughest left-handers. He’s compiled a 2.79 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP—both good for top 10 in the NL—and a league-best 17 quality starts over 122.2 innings pitched. It’s Wood’s first All-Star selection.

From the Pages of Vine Line: WAR All-Stars—Pitcher

Imagine a roster with Banks, Fergie, Santo and Sosa—all in their primes.

With a lot of help from stats website Fangraphs.com, and a little insider information from author and SB Nation National Baseball Editor Rob Neyer, we’ve compiled the all-time greatest single seasons from a Cubs player at each position. Because there’s so much that goes into the game of baseball, and numbers are by nature open to interpretation, compiling this kind of roster can be fairly subjective and lead to lengthy debates. We opted to take as much conflict as possible out of the equation and simply utilized the advanced statistic wins above replacement (WAR).

We won’t bore you with an extensive breakdown of the formula, but what WAR essentially does is aggregate everything an individual contributes—offensively and defensively—into one definitive number that conveys his value, typically ranging from -1 to 10. The purpose of the formula is to quantify how much a team would lose if a player was swapped for an average replacement player.

In order to qualify for our team, each player had to spend the majority of his time at a single position during the season being measured. And because the team wasn’t officially christened the Chicago Cubs until 1903, players who represented the Orphans, Colts and White Stockings were excluded (apologies to Bill Hutchison and his 10.6 WAR in 1892). It wasn’t necessary to win an MVP or even go to the All-Star Game. These are simply the best WAR seasons for a Cubs player at each spot on the diamond.

For Friday’s installment, we unveil the greatest single season for a pitcher in Cubs history. For more information or the entire roster, be sure to pick up a copy of July’s issue of Vine Line. And watch the blog in the coming weeks for the rest of the roster.

Pitcher: Fergie Jenkins, 1970—10.5 WAR

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If you’re looking for an example of how fickle wins above replacement can be, look no further than Cubs great Fergie Jenkins. His 1971 season was phenomenal. He won 24 games behind a 2.77 ERA and was awarded the NL Cy Young for his efforts. It was the previous season, however, the one without an All-Star appearance—much less the Cy Young hardware—in which he compiled the best-ever WAR for a Cubs pitcher. Though the first half of his 1970 season got off to a rocky start, Jenkins rallied in the second half, posting a 2.75 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .197 average after the All-Star break. To the credit of manager Leo Durocher, much of the team’s success that season came from letting Jenkins take the ball deep into outings. In 39 starts, he tossed 24 complete games. Much of the right-hander’s success came from his 4.57 K/BB ratio, the third-best mark of the decade.

Rob Neyer’s Take:
“[This was] the middle of a brilliant six-year run in which Jenkins averaged 21 wins, 39 starts and 306 innings per season. It seems we’ll never see the likes of him again.”

Other Notable Seasons (Pitcher):
Fergie Jenkins – 10.3 WAR (1971)
Fergie Jenkins – 9.1 WAR (1969)

Cubs’ Alcantara, Soler into MLB Futures Game

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Jorge Soler will represent the World Team in the Futures Game. (Photo by Stephen Green)

A pair of the Cubs’ most promising prospects were honored for their solid first halves on Wednesday, as middle-infielder Arismendy Alcantara and corner outfielder Jorge Soler were both selected to represent the World Team in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. The annual exhibition, which will be held on July 14 at Citi Field in New York, pits the top U.S.-born prospects against the best from around the world.

The 21-year-old Alcantara has enjoyed a solid season in Double-A Tennessee this year. Primarily playing shortstop (57 appearances vs. 17 at second base), the 2008 non-drafted free agent has hit .280/.357/.465 and is fourth in the Southern League with 10 home runs and fifth in stolen bases with 19. He’s also tied for sixth in the SL with 17 doubles. The Dominican native is ranked No. 20 on MLB.com’s organizational prospect ranks.

Cuban expat Soler made news last season when the Cubs signed him to a nine-year, $30 million deal, and he has performed well in his first full season of minor league ball. The 6-foot-4, 215 pound slugger has hit .281/.343/.467 for High-A Daytona, recording eight home runs with 13 doubles and 35 RBI. Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks recently named Soler the No. 31 prospect in baseball, and MLB.com has him ranked No. 3 in the organization.

In addition to Alcantara and Soler, Cubs fans have a chance to vote for shortstop phenom Javier Baez as the final member of the World Team, as he was named a Futures Finalist.

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