Results tagged ‘ Anthony Rizzo ’
The end of 2012 marks the culmination of many ﬁrsts. It was baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s ﬁrst year at the Cubs’ helm. It was Dale Sveum’s ﬁrst full season as a major league manager. It was Anthony Rizzo’s ﬁrst year in a Cubs uniform and Jeff Samardzija’s ﬁrst real experience in the rotation. It was also the ﬁrst time since 1966 the team lost 100 games in a single season.
In other words, I think everybody is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2012 and popping the proverbial cork on a new year of Cubs baseball.
Although a 61-101 record isn’t what anyone involved with the Cubs was hoping for, everybody knew there was work to be done at the outset of the season. As we look back at the year, there were certainly stretches of good play, breakout performances, walk-off wins and plenty to feel positive about. But no one—from fans to players to the front ofﬁce—is happy with where the team is right now.
“I don’t think a celebration is in order,” said Epstein on his one-year anniversary with the Cubs. “I have a lot more gray hair now than I had a year ago. My wife reminds me of that all the time. But I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”
In the December issue of Vine Line, the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles examines how the Cubs fared this year and what they did to strengthen their future prospects. It’s impossible to judge the 2012 calendar year by looking solely at the major league level. When Epstein, Hoyer and company came to Chicago, they talked of the need to restock the minor league system to provide a steady stream of homegrown talent to the big league club. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing. Respected hardball website Baseball Prospectus recently released a list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization, and six of the 10 players were acquired or drafted in 2012.
It all started with the 2012 ﬁrst-year player draft, where the Cubs picked up outﬁelder Albert Almora (No. 1 on Baseball Prospectus’ list) and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson (No. 7) and Duane Underwood (No. 8). But it also included free agent signings like outﬁelder Jorge Soler (No. 3) and making full use of the trade deadline to ﬁll organizational holes with players like right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 9).
To say goodbye to 2012, Vine Line and Chicago Cubs photographer Stephen Green also look back at the best photos from the past season. Green, in his 30th year with the team, was there for every moment, from Bill Murray’s Opening Day hijinks to Bryan LaHair’s walk-off single to cap off the year.
We also have a preview of the Cubs Convention, a Q&A with outfielder Dave Sappelt and much more. For these stories, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.
The MVP awards were handed out Thursday night, signifying the official end of the the 2012 baseball season. But just because Spring Training is still months away doesn’t mean Cubs fans can’t get their baseball fix.
From Jan. 18-20, Cubs faithful will have an opportunity to meet more than 50 current and former players, coaches and front office associates at the 28th annual Cubs Convention. For the first time in the event’s history, it will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St., and it promises to deliver all the fun and excitement of previous years.
Some of the headliners expected to attend this year include Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams; current stars Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Jeff Samardzija; and front office personnel like Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Individual weekend passes for the event went on sale earlier this month, and there are still some available. Each pass is $60 plus convenience fees. To purchase your pass, visit cubs.com or call 1-800-THE-CUBS.
Guests can also still book rooms at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers by calling the hotel at 800-233-4100. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate of $179/night plus tax. Guests who book a two-night stay will receive a limited edition, authenticated, autographed photo of Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.
The convention will run from 1-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit cubs.com.
Josh Vitters was one of the top hitters on the Iowa Cubs this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Today we wrap up our tour of the Cubs farm system, which took a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The Triple-A Iowa Cubs are last in the spotlight.
For those of us who subscribe to MiLB.TV, all eyes were trained on Iowa to start the year. Between Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, some of the organization’s top prospects could be found just a step away from the major leagues.
In fact, of the 59 players to appear for the I-Cubs this year, 32 appeared in the major leagues at some point this season. And 24 finished the year on a big league roster (though it should be noted that total includes rehab assignments in Des Moines for Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol and Steve Clevenger).
Of course, Rizzo dominated Triple-A until his mid-June call-up, and he more or less became the Chicago Cubs’ best hitter after that. On the other hand, both Vitters and Jackson weren’t able to take off in their major league debuts and, according to Theo Epstein, are expected to start back in Iowa next season.
Lost in the franchise-record 153 transactions was a team that finished in last place, largely because of an offense that finished 15th out of 16 teams.
Still, some specific performances stood out even beyond Rizzo, Vitters and Jackson. Infielder Luis Valbuena showed some pop and patience to go along with a good glove. First baseman Greg Rohan did well in his third stop of 2012. Catcher Welington Castillo once again showed some power, as he continues to develop his good tools behind the plate. And infielder Adrian Cardenas has produced at pretty much every minor league stop.
The Chicago-Iowa shuttle was active on the pitching side as well. Alberto Cabrera has a live arm and was fairly successful in the majors outside a handful of bad appearances. Left-hander Jeff Beliveau could be a key matchup pitcher for the Cubs—and has shown the ability to get righties out too. Rafael Dolis has a great, hard sinker, and his success in Triple-A and lack of it in the majors largely had to do with control. Lefties Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley each made a handful of starts down the stretch in the majors and could be outside challengers for rotation spots next spring.
Overall: 53-87, fourth place, 28.0 GB
Storylines: The Iowa Cubs will be hiring their sixth manager in as many seasons, as 2012 skipper Dave Bialas was one of six minor league coaches who were told their contracts would not be renewed. Bialas had been in the organization for 18 years.
Comparing pitch charts from the first half to the second, pitchers made some big changes when facing Bryan LaHair. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Positions Played: 1B (65%), RF (34%), LF (1%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .257/.333/.442 in 375 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.6
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arbitration)
Recent Time to First: 4.7s on Aug. 19 (20 on 20-80 scale)
Bryan LaHair has beat the odds a few times over.
He made the majors despite being a 39th-round draft pick (in 2002). He turned the prevailing scouting opinion of him from “Quad-A Player” to potential regular as he approached 4,000 minor league plate appearances. He even was named a 2012 All-Star despite barely clearing rookie eligibility by his 29th birthday.
The 2012 season was a tale of two halves for LaHair, for reasons both in and out of his control. He was one of the NL’s best first basemen in the first half and showed a model approach at the plate that manager Dale Sveum would like to see spread throughout the lineup. Then pitchers adjusted to him, and his playing time was squeezed by the call-up of Anthony Rizzo. But he showed a positive, determined attitude throughout the year and has said he won’t let his big league opportunity go to waste.
Let’s once again leverage PITCHf/x data, as presented by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus, in order to compare how pitchers approached LaHair as the season went along. Baseball Prospectus gives you hundreds of ways to slice up the numbers. Our own figure below shows the change in pitch location versus LaHair, from first half to second. (For example, pitchers threw 13 percent fewer pitches in the low-and-away square of the strike zone in the second half than they did in the first. With pitches up and in, LaHair saw 124 percent more pitches—or more than twice as many. Note: This is based on the rates.)
In the first half, pitchers primarily worked away from LaHair, hoping to prevent him from being able to pull the ball. LaHair was happy to oblige—he went with those pitches and showed an impressive ability to drive them the other way. In fact, four of his first seven home runs (hit by May 3) were hit left of center field. He finished the first half with a .286/.364/.519 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 261 plate appearances and was selected to the All-Star Game.
But as big league pitchers saw more of LaHair, they adjusted. They started pounding fastballs inside on LaHair before going back to the low-outside corner with breaking balls when the pitcher was ahead in the count. This approach turned out to be successful, and LaHair’s struggles were compounded by reduced playing time when the organization’s top prospect Rizzo was called up in late June. He had a .192/.263/.269 slash line in 114 second-half plate appearances.
The question, of course, is figuring out LaHair’s best role on the Cubs going forward. First base clearly has been claimed by Rizzo for years to come. If Brett Jackson takes a hold on center field next year, then Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus will get the majority of starts in the corners. So that may relegate LaHair to coming off the bench, where he would be one of the top bats to bring in against right-handed relievers. Cost—at least in dollars—isn’t the issue since he only has one and a half years of MLB service time, meaning the team can tender him a contract at or near the league minimum. Instead, a key offseason priority for GM Jed Hoyer will be determining LaHair’s roster value for 2013.
NOTE: This sweepstakes officially ended at noon on Oct. 4, 2012. Check back with Vine Line in October for the next cover giveaway.
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Since his June 26 call-up to the big leagues, Anthony Rizzo has certainly lived up Cubs fans’ expectations. In just 57 games, his highlights include driving in the game-winning RBI in three of his first five games, hitting a dramatic walk-off home run against the Cardinals and capping an improbable rally last night with a key ninth inning double to tie the game 11-11 with Milwaukee.
Rizzo’s early success with the Cubs made us wonder about the goals he set for himself heading into the season. Vine Line looked back at our Spring Training conversation with the slugging first baseman in which he talked about coming to the Cubs, saying goodbye to the minor leagues and playing at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs team Manager Dale Sveum takes into September is drastically different from the team that broke Spring Training in April. At the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs dealt away veterans Jeff Baker, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm and Geovany Soto in favor of high-ceiling minor league talent that could pay off down the road. This month, Vine Line talked to Sveum about the impact those deals have had on the major league club, what he expects out of the team’s recent call-ups and what he’s learned on the job this season.
To read the full interview, pick up the September issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.
Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.
Slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo leads the Cubs into Cincinnati this weekend to start a four-game set with the NL Central-leading Reds. Rizzo has been playing so well since his call-up in late July, it made us wonder how his early career stacks up with that of 2010 NL MVP and Reds first baseman Joey Votto. We compared Rizzo’s first 43 games with a Cubs to Votto’s first 43 games as a member of the Reds.