Results tagged ‘ Alfonso Soriano ’
You can never have too much pitching.
If you need further proof of that old baseball axiom, let’s look at the 2012 Cubs. They started the season with a fairly solid rotation behind a pitching-out-of-his-gourd Ryan Dempster, reliever-turned-starter Jeff Samardzija, a rejuvenated Paul Maholm and young veteran ﬁreballer Matt Garza. At the back end, there were two options: newly acquired lefty Travis Wood and underachieving former top draft pick Chris Volstad.
Things looked pretty good on paper. But, as we all know, that didn’t last long.
The offense didn’t score. Injuries took their toll. The trade deadline came and went. And, well, the rest is lamentable Cubs history.
It turned out the team didn’t have much major league-ready talent behind those guys—in the starting rotation or in the bullpen—and baseball president Theo Epstein’s preseason prediction, “The numbers show you’re going to need your ninth starter through the course of the year,” came true.
As a result, the front ofﬁce was laser focused on one thing throughout the hot stove season: acquiring more serviceable big league pitching to ensure there isn’t a repeat performance of last season.
“I think that probably the biggest weakness when we got here was depth in pitching, especially at the upper levels,” General Manager Jed Hoyer said. “Ideally, you want to home-grow all of your pitching. We don’t have that luxury right now, so we actively sought out a lot of starting pitching. We brought in four guys we see as starters: [Edwin] Jackson, [Scott] Feldman, [Scott] Baker and [Carlos] Villanueva.”
The Cubs might not have a traditional “ace” coming into the season, but they have three guys with the ability to ﬁll that role in Samardzija, Garza and Jackson. If strike-throwing machine Baker can fully recover from last April’s Tommy John surgery, he should be a useful veteran addition to the staff. Feldman and Villanueva have both proven they can start and relieve in the big leagues, giving manager Dale Sveum plenty of flexibility. And Travis Wood, the only lefty in the starting mix, has tremendous athleticism and mixes in six different pitches.
The team also solidiﬁed the bullpen by re-signing veteran Shawn Camp and bringing in Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. Even Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon, who is required to stay on the 25-man major league roster all season or be offered back to the Indians, looked impressive in his spring appearances.
The April issue of Vine Line takes a look at the Cubs pitching staff from top to bottom to give you an idea of what each pitcher throws, how they attack hitters and what to expect this season.
We also sat down with Hoyer to get a sense of where the organization stands as he enters his second season in the driver’s seat. The team certainly still has work to do, but there are many reasons to feel optimistic about the future.
“We’re trying to build something that every year [fans] know is a playoff-quality team,” Hoyer said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, and we’ve been really honest about that. But I do think fans deserve to start seeing the fruits of our labor, and I think you’re going to start to see that coming together now.”
Still, winning organizations are not built solely by shrewd front ofﬁce maneuvers. They require buy-in from coaches, players and personnel at every level. While we were in Mesa, Ariz., with the team this spring, we got a ﬁrsthand look at how the Cubs’ message is being passed along from veteran players, like David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano, to the younger generation, like Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson. It’s a time-honored baseball tradition—each spring, older players take the young studs under their wings to teach them the ins and outs of the major league game.
Baseball is back. Let’s see where this ride takes us.
A steady rain drowned out most of the final day of Cubs baseball at Fitch Park on Wednesday, but there was still a little news.
The Cubs announced the starters for the opening games of their Cactus League slate, which kicks off this weekend. Travis Wood will get the Saturday start against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, and Jeff Samardzija will pitch the Sunday home opener against the San Francisco Giants. Carlos Villanueva will pitch Game 3 on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Edwin Jackson will start on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Garza’s debut has been pushed back due to a mild lat strain on his left side. It was announced Tuesday that he’ll likely be out about a week before resuming baseball activities.
Manager Dale Sveum also held his daily presser, despite the lack of on-field action. Here are Sveum’s best quotes from the day:
Then vs. Now
“We have a lot of the same guys in camp [from a year ago] that ended getting some time in the big leagues. But like I said yesterday, there’s just a whole different look in their eyes. Having that experience and going through some adversity with some of the young guys, it’s a whole lot different. There’s just so much more talent in camp this year than there was last year—and also depth. Guys that are very capable of pitching in the big leagues or guys that are on our radar getting really close to the big leagues. … There’s just more playable talent in camp this year.”
“Spring Training is what it is in any park. Here it’s a little bit unique because you have to move [from Fitch to HoHoKam]. Probably my first memory here is when I had to come over here 25 years ago and rehab my leg clear across from Peoria [in extended Spring Training]. We shared it with the Cubs at that time.”
Prospect Watch (Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, Junior Lake, etc.)
“We have so many split-squad games they’re going to get quite a few games in before being sent down. There are a lot of at-bats out there.”
“I’m very anxious [to see them]. Those are the guys you talk about that are on your radar in the minor league systems that have all those God-given tools—the speed, the arm, the power, hopefully the hitting ability, meaning OPS and those things. A lot of that stuff comes a little bit later in careers. But it’s pretty special talent and bat speed those guys have. You want to see it in person and at game speed.”
“We do have some personalities that are able to fill those [leadership] roles. I think [Anthony] Rizzo is one of those guys. I think [Darwin] Barney is ready to be that guy. Obviously Rizzo’s rookie year and Barney winning a Gold Glove—those kinds of things give you added ability to be a leader in the clubhouse because people look up to people like that. We have [Alfonso] Soriano, and [Jeff] Samardzija is going to take on that role, as well as [Matt] Garza and Edwin Jackson. So we have plenty of personalities that can do that.”
Building for the Future
“Going into this last year, you knew the plan we had, and we weren’t going to take any shortcuts to vary from it. Within a year, the whole organization has changed so dramatically for the good. You just get better players in the organization, and you create an atmosphere where people want to play here, and they want to come to this ballpark and work. That’s all you can do. That’s the transformation we’re trying to do all the time here. And it’s changed a ton in a year.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training last week, while position players reported this weekend. And Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the outfield. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
While Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus appear to be locks in the outfield, the Cubs may be inclined to move either of them if the right deal comes along this year.
In 2012, Soriano provided value to the Cubs in a multitude of areas. He was surprisingly durable (his 151 games played were the most in his Cubs career) and drove in a career-high 108 runs (though consistently hitting in the clean-up spot for the first time certainly helped). He also slugged 32 home runs and received a few MVP votes, accomplishments he hadn’t achieved since his first season with the club. Soriano markedly improved on defense and emerged as a leader on a team that was sorely lacking in that department after trading veterans at the deadline.
DeJesus provides strong defense in right field and delivers solid on-base skills. The signing of Nate Schierholtz means DeJesus might spend quite a bit of time in center field, where his defensive skills are average at best. But that should increase the value of his bat due to the lower expectations for power that come with moving from a corner outfield spot.
The left-handed Schierholtz provides a strong bat against right-handed pitching and solid defense, including a great arm in right field. It’s likely he will be part of a platoon with new acquisition Scott Hairston. Dave Sappelt is also a rangy outfielder who could rack up some innings in any of the three spots. Elite prospect Brett Jackson, who made his big league debut last season, will start 2013 in Triple-A and continue to refine his swing and work on his contact rate.
The trajectory of the Cubs’ 2013 outfield could be similar to that of the 2012 starting pitching staff, a unit that looked vastly different at the end of the season than it did at the beginning.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.
The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.
Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.
Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.
Additional Saturday sessions include:
- Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
- Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
- From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
- Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
- For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
- Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
- Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
- WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.
Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:
- Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
- Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.
In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:
Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.
Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.
MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.
The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.
The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.
American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.
The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.
Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.
Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano turned 37 years old today. The slugger has been with the organization since 2007, where he’s enjoyed his fair share of success. Spending most of 2012 in the heart of the order, the righty hit .262 with 33 home runs and a career-high 108 RBI. He even received a few MVP votes for his solid play. In six years on the North Side, Soriano has hit .265/.320/.499 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 164 home runs and 475 RBI.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
New Year’s Eve is right around the corner. Celebrate safely and happily this year.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
It’s the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012. In honor of 12-12-12, Vine Line dug into our 2012 photos of the year for this shot of the Cubs’ No. 12 taking the field prior to a game earlier this year.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs left-fielder Alfonso Soriano kills time during a rain delay by commandeering some of photographer Stephen Green’s equipment (with reluctant model Manuel Corpas).
This is another shot that didn’t make it into our 2012 photos of the year feature in the December issue of Vine Line. All month, we’ll be posting some of the extras here on the blog.
Every month in Vine Line, Emerald Gao and Sean Ahmed take an analytical and visual look at the Chicago Cubs in Cubsgrafs. In this bonus online edition, we break down the 137 home runs hit by the 2012 squad.
The top graph looks at the five home runs that swung the game’s fate most toward the Cubs. It uses Win Probability Added (WPA), which gives the average probability that a team will win the game based on the inning, score and base/out situation. No surprise that Bryan LaHair and Alfonso Soriano hit some vital long balls—but it looks like Darwin Barney also made the most of his handful of homers this year.