Results tagged ‘ Bryan LaHair ’

Cubsgrafs: Long story short

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.


1000 Words: Bryan LaHair walks off as season winds down

(Photo by Stephen Green)

With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth of Wednesday’s season finale, Bryan LaHair ripped a single to right field to give the Cubs a 5-4 victory. The 2012 All-Star also hit a solo home run in the second inning to knot the game at 1-1.

1000 Words: Cubs walk off in Game 162

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Despite a difficult year on the field in 2012, the Cubs ended the season in exciting fashion, when Bryan LaHair smacked a bases-loaded line drive into right field to give the Cubs a walk-off 5-4 victory over the Astros at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs finished the 2012 season with a 61-101 record.

2012 Player Profile: Bryan LaHair

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.

Cast your vote for the best of 2012

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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.

Cubs All-Star Recap

Josh Vitters took part in Wednesday night’s Triple-A All-Star Game, wrapping up the Midsummer Classics for each level of the Cubs organization. Vine Line recapped how Cubs players and prospects performed in their respective All-Star Games.

Major League All-Star Game:

Starlin Castro: 0-for-1, flied out to center, two defensive innings played
Bryan LaHair: 0-for-1, ground out to shortstop, three defensive innings played

MLB Futures Game:

Jae-Hoon Ha: 2-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, started at CF

Triple-A All-Star Game:

Josh Vitters: 0-for-1, BB, K, four defensive innings played

Double-A Southern League All-Star Game:

Jim Adduci: 2-for-2, double, RBI, four defensive innings played
Frank Batista: 2/3 IP, 0 R
Justin Bour: 1-for-3, BB, started at DH
Kevin Rhoderick: 1 IP, BB, 0 R

Single-A Florida State League All-Star Game:

Arismendy Alcantara: 0-for-1, three defensive innings
Austin Kirk: 1 IP, 0 R, starting pitcher
Nelson Perez: 1-for-3, double, RBI, BB, started at left field
Greg Rohan: 0-for-4, started at DH

Single-A Midwest League All-Star Game:

Kyler Burke: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER
Zeke DeVoss: 0-for-1, three defensive innings played
Paul Hoilman: 0-for-2, started at 1B

Cubs contribute as NL tops AL

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Cubs standouts Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair took part in the 83rd MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night in Kansas City. Both went hitless in one at-bat, but the National League secured an 8-0 win and home-field advantage in the World Series thanks to a five-run first inning. Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was named the game’s MVP after going 2-for-3 with a two-run home run.

Profile: All-Star Bryan LaHair

Congrats to Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair, who were both selected to the National League All-Star team yesterday.

The 22-year-old Castro earned his second All-Star honor in as many seasons, becoming 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. LaHair, 29, is the first Cub to be elected as a first baseman since Derrek Lee in 2007 and only the third Cubs first baseman to make the team in the last 30 years (Mark Grace).

Vine Line profiled LaHair in the July All-Star issue, on sale now. Here are a few choice quotes about his struggles in the minor leagues and the early All-Star speculation. The read the full interview, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up a copy at Chicago-area newsstands.

STAR STRUCK  I’m humbled by the talk. I’ve got to stay in the moment and prepare for today’s game. I never like to get too far ahead of myself. There are a lot of good players in this league and a lot of guys with time served. It would be great to go to the All-Star Game, but it’s just so hard for me. I’m in such a young part of my major league career, so I can’t say I deserve to be there. I’d be lying if I stood here and said I wouldn’t want something like that. It’s a great honor. It’s reaching the top. I think the whole state of Massachusetts is voting for me, or at least it seems that way.

FAMILY MATTERS  They kept pushing me every day—my mom and dad, and my wife [Nicole] especially. My wife has been with me since I first started. We met in ’04, which was one year into [pro ball]. She’s experienced the downs and the highs and the hard work and the success with no results coming from it. My family just kept pushing, telling me to work hard and keep the faith, and assuring me that good things would happen eventually. And they were right.

Cubs venture to the South Side — Part III

The Cubs continued their run of success on Tuesday, claiming a 2-1 victory over the White Sox in a combined nine-hit pitchers’ duel. On Monday, we broke down the Cubs’ pitching matchups against the Sox, and yesterday we examined the infielders. In our final installment, we dissect the designated hitters and the three outfield positions.

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Designated Hitter

Alfonso Soriano (.266/.315/.485, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 13 2B) vs. Adam Dunn (.225/.369/.559, 23 HR, 52 RBI, 54 BB)

Alfonso Soriano didn’t hit his first home run until May 15, but since then he has been providing the kind of pop the Cubs lineup has been looking for all season. His 13 home runs are tied for the team high, and he leads the squad in RBI. Even at age 36, the everyday left fielder is still proving his worth at the plate. As a likely trade candidate, Soriano could be a key piece for a team eying a full-time DH.

Even if Adam Dunn ended his 2012 season right now, he would still be a candidate for comeback player of the year, considering his miserable 2011 campaign. Dunn leads the major leagues in home runs and leads the AL in walks. Of his 293 plate appearances, 65.4 percent have ended in one of the “three true outcomes”—a strikeout, a walk or a home run.

Left Field

Reed Johnson (.292/.355/.425, 33 R) vs. Dayan Viciedo (.261/.294/.450, 12 HR, 30 RBI)

Reed Johnson’s already limited playing time will likely take an even bigger hit when first baseman Bryan LaHair moves to the outfield to accommodate the call-up of elite prospect Anthony Rizzo. In limited plate appearances (124), Johnson’s .292 average and timely hitting have been a big boost to the Cubs offense. His ability to play all three outfield spots is also a plus.

Dayan Viciedo is finally becoming the power hitter everyone thought he would be when the Sox signed him in 2008. Though his large frame costs him a bit of range defensively, he has not yet committed an error. This season, he’s put up respectable numbers and played smart defense. Plus, at only 23, he’s likely to become a more complete player as time goes on.

Center Field

Tony Campana (.281/.320/.317, 24 SB) vs. Alejandro De Aza (.295/.366/.406, 14 SB, 11 2B)

Tony Campana has the ability to be a difference maker for the Cubs. While he might soon be relegated to the bench with the Rizzo shuffle, he’s stolen a league-best 24 bases in just 49 games. On multiple occasions, Campana has turned walks into runs, but his 22.7% strikeout rate is a little alarming for a speedster. Despite an average arm, Campana covers a lot of ground in left or center, making him a very valuable defensive player.

Alejandro De Aza has been one of the better surprises for the Sox this season. After spending parts of the last three years playing sporadically at the big league level, De Aza stepped into the leadoff role on Opening Day and has been an excellent table-setter. He’s hit near .300 and gotten on base at a rate of almost .370, making him a good complement to the mashers in the middle of the Sox’s order.

Right Field

David DeJesus (.261/.362/.389, 13 2B) vs. Alex Rios (.288/.311/.472, 35 RBI, 5 3B)

David DeJesus has been the Cubs’ right fielder all season, but he’s played center in this series—and he’ll likely stay there with the previously mentioned lineup changes. But the transition to center shouldn’t be that difficult for the 10-year veteran, who has spent time at all three outfield spots during his career with Kansas City and Oakland. Offensively, DeJesus has been one of the most consistent players in the Cubs’ lineup. His on-base percentage is 100 points higher than his batting average, and he has been a regular at the top half of Manager Dale Sveum’s lineup card.

If it weren’t for teammates Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn, the league would be talking about Alex Rios as one of the better bounce-back stories of the year. After hitting .227 in 2011, the nine-year vet is having his finest season since coming over from Toronto in 2009. His five triples leads the AL, and he has a respectable 3.0 defensive UZR.

Cubs venture to the South Side — Part II

The Cubs got the season’s second crosstown series off to a lopsided start, hammering 15 hits and tallying 12 runs, in a 12-3 victory. Yesterday we broke down the pitching matchups for the Cubs’ series with the South Side Sox. Today we examine the infielders.

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Catcher

Geovany Soto (.173/.257/.337, 4 HR, 21% CS)  vs. A.J. Pierzynski (.286/.329/.512, 12 HR, 29% CS)

Geovany Soto is off the DL and looks to have retained his regular catching duties, despite a .173 batting average. Backup catcher Steve Clevenger (.284/.303/.392, 8 doubles, 76 PA), who played first base yesterday, looked good in Soto’s absence. Soto, a former NL All-Star and Rookie of the Year, will need to bolster his stats a bit to keep his everyday job.

A.J. Pierzynski continues to up his game, even at 35 years old. His .286 average is second-highest among AL catchers, and he leads that group in slugging percentage. He should get serious All-Star consideration.

First Base

Bryan LaHair (.299/.380/.572, 13 HR, 28 RBI) vs. Paul Konerko (.359/.434/.600, 13 HR, 38 RBI)

Despite not being in the lineup against lefties, Bryan LaHair’s numbers are some of the best among National League first basemen. So far this season, he has been one of the better feel-good stories in baseball. With the Cubs facing three righties this series, expect to see the 29-year-old slugger’s name penciled into the lineup all three games—even if it’s in the outfield, where he started the first game of the series. That could be a signal the team is readying for first base uber-prospect Anthony Rizzo.

But as good as LaHair has been, Paul Konerko has turned himself into a legitimate MVP candidate—an impressive feat for a 36-year-old many believed was past his prime. His .359 batting average is more than 40 points above his career high.

Second Base

Darwin Barney (.272/.319/.392, 3 HR, 22 RBI) vs. Gordon Beckham (.236/.286/.372, 8 HR, 27 RBI)

Darwin Barney has been a big contributor for the Cubs all season long. While Manager Dale Sveum has platooned much of the starting lineup, Barney has been one of the few steady regulars, regardless of the matchup. His .272 average and .319 OBP are third-best among Cubs regulars, and he has come through in the clutch on several occasions.

Former first-round draft pick Gordon Beckham continues to struggle at the plate after a promising rookie season in ’08. The Sox were hoping Beckham could emerge as a top-of-the-order guy when the season started, but his .286 on-base percentage has kept him at the bottom of the high-powered lineup. However, he did hit the go-ahead home run in the first game at Wrigley earlier this year.

Shortstop

Starlin Castro (.303/.317/.448, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 16 SB) vs. Alexei Ramirez (.230/.255/.282, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB)

Starlin Castro is putting together another solid campaign and will likely represent the Cubs in July’s All-Star Game. While he’s walked just six times in 285 plate appearances, he’s still hovering around a .300 batting average. And, despite a few mental gaffes, his defense is improving. His UZR ranks him as one of the NL’s elite defensive shortstops. He’s also running more this season. His 16 stolen bases are already closing in on his career-high total (22) from last year.

Alexei Ramirez has been ice cold for the Sox all season, which may be a bigger surprise than Konerko’s torrid start. Last year, the 30-year-old Ramirez finished with a 4.9 WAR (wins above replacement), good for 17th in the AL. This year, he sits a -0.6, third-worst in the league.

Third Base

Luis Valbuena (.294/.333/.647, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 12 AB) vs. Orlando Hudson (.176/.265/.297, 2 HR, 10 RBI)

The hot corner features a pair of newcomers to their respective teams. Luis Valbuena was signed by the Cubs a week before the season began and just started earning regular playing time after Ian Stewart went on the DL with wrist problems. Valbuena has produced offensively in the past, hitting .250 with 10 homers in 103 games for the Indians in 2009. In just five games this year, he’s already hit two home runs and driven in seven.

The Sox signed 34-year-old Orlando Hudson in May to take over for the slumping Brent Morel. The four-time Gold Glove winner and career second baseman has been moderately successful with the transition to third, committing three errors in 23 games, but he continues to struggle mightily at the dish.

Tomorrow, we focus on designated hitters and outfielders.

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