Results tagged ‘ bullpen ’

From the Winter Meetings: Sveum on the bullpen [Part 2]


Former Cubs reliever and MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (center) joined Brian Kenny and Tom Verducci for on-site reporting from the Winter Meetings.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Here are more Dale Sveum dispatches from the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the halls have been buzzing on this last full day of the Winter Meetings.

• Sveum made it clear the bullpen is getting attention in the Cubs front office. The team already re-signed Shawn Camp, their lone free agent, and may look to add more.

“Upgrading the ‘pen is something we wanted to do. … Whatever happens from here on out—we’re talking to a lot of people, and hopefully things work out. But [Carlos] Marmol is our closer, and we’ve got to get better at the back end. We signed Shawn Camp back, James Russell, so that’s a start. But we have to get better in that seventh, eighth inning.”

Sveum wouldn’t directly comment on Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, though the Cubs’ pursuit of the reliever attracted plenty of Japanese reporters to the manager’s press conference. Fujikawa, a free agent who saved 220 games over 12 years with the Hanshin Tigers, clearly intrigues Sveum.

“I think he can fill any kind of role. He’s got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn’t come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. He’s got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out—so he can pitch in any kind of situation.”

• Sveum spent about a week in Arizona to see Cubs prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Javier Baez, who just turned 20 last week. Many have compared Baez’s bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.

“Incredible bad speed. Didn’t get to see any results, but the bat speed was pretty good. I didn’t go to his best games. But he had a heck of a minor league season—the combination of the home runs and everything. He was a bigger kid than I thought when I saw him in person. I saw him without a shirt on one day, and I was like, wow, he’s a pretty big kid. But a lot of tremendous, tremendous tools at that age. That kind of bat speed just doesn’t come around at 19 years old.”

Cubsgrafs: Zeroed in

Cubsgrafs: Bullpen Streak 1

Infographic by Emerald Gao, from the June 2011 issue of Vine Line. Subscribe to Vine Line today to get more top analysis on the Cubs.

Projected to be a strength in the late innings, the Cubs bullpen pitched in from top to bottom to shut out opponents in nine straight games spanning 21.1 innings from April 29-May 8. This breakdown takes a look at the team effort.

The first chart maps out the scoreless innings each reliever pitched. The second adds up all the value with Win Probability Added, the sum of a player’s contributions to the team’s chances of winning based on situational performance (Source: Baseball-Reference). (more…)

Small move paying extra dividends

After Michael’s post last Thursday, the Cubs didn’t seem to be in any more of a hurry to get things done. They played — and won — another extra-inning game, their fourth extended affair in just 12 games this season.

That makes the Cubs 3-1 when the game goes beyond nine innings, compared to last year’s dismal 2-8 record. It’s been nice to be able to avoid that “What was the point?” feeling with which extra-inning losses always leave you.

It also raises the question as to why the team has fared so much better in the early going. While grinding out wins takes some skill, it also can be a bit of a crapshoot. But are there teams that have a built-in advantage in extra innings?

Perhaps it takes a good bullpen that can work within razor-thin margins. That doesn’t just speak to the closer and setup men but also to having long relievers (Jon Lieber and Kevin Hart, 18.1 IP combined) that can steady the bullpen and prevent the top guys from being stretched out. That’s one area where the minor changes that Lou Piniella and GM Jim Hendry made in the off-season have gone a long way.

Cubs bullpen through first 12 games
2007 0-2 2 35.0 27 11 44 3.34
2008 5-2 6 52.1 50 16 34 3.61

Notice that the bullpen’s 2008 ERA is a quarter-run higher than last year’s through 12 games (a statistically insignificant difference), but the starters have left a lot more on the shoulders of the relief corps. Through just 12 games, the relievers already have factored into the decision seven times (5-2) and saved six of the team’s seven wins. They have had to pitch an additional 17 innings, partly because the starters have thrown a half-inning less per start and also due to all the extra innings.

Lou told Vine Line that Lieber has pitched well and will get some spot starts when the team wants to throw a right-hander. He has earned a rotation spot. But even if Dempster would have remained a solid closer and Lieber a good No. 3 starter, the current setup has allowed this pitching staff to weather the unexpected so far.

Remember, it’s early. The Cubs will play 12 games another 12.5 times this year. Hopefully the starters will settle in, and the hitters will show some early inning explosiveness. But its always nice to get out to a good start and see how some of the winter’s moves may pay off.

— Sean Ahmed