Results tagged ‘ Chris Bosio ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Jeff Samardzija came into Spring Training last season just looking for a spot in the rotation. He comes to Arizona this year as one of the best young arms in the game and a possible Opening Day starter. On Sunday, he’ll take the hill for the Cubs in their Cactus League home opener against the defending World Champion Giants.
That’s quite a transformation for the 6-foot-5 former Notre Dame wide receiver.
As absurd as it may sound, Samardzija—yes, former million-dollar draftee turned minor league bust turned major league reliever turned frequently brilliant starter Jeff Samardzija—may be ready to take yet another step in his unusual career arc and become the piece that every team desires, a true font-of-the-rotation ace.
“Jeff was the one [in our starting staff] who matured as a pitcher [last year],” said pitching coach Chris Bosio. “[He went] from a pretty good pitcher to I think in that top five, maybe top six category as far as starters in the National League. I thought he had a very nice season, but we’re expecting bigger and better things out of Samardzija this year.”
That’s high praise for the tall right-hander, as Bosio seems ready to put him in the same category as elite pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels.
As outlandish as Bosio’s claim may sound, there are signs Samardzija may actually deserve such acclaim. Conventional wisdom among scouts is that—unless you’re Randy Johnson—you have to carry three plus pitches to be among the true number ones in baseball. Having always been blessed with one of the hardest fastballs in the game (an offering he commanded exceptionally well last season), Samardzija has finally honed his slider into an above-average pitch. He also developed a splitter that proved to be his go-to, put-away pitch when he got two strikes on an opposing hitter.
Last season, the Shark led the Cubs in games started, innings pitched, quality starts, strikeouts and complete games.
According to PITCHf/x data, of starters who tossed at least 150 innings, Samardzija was third in fastball velocity (behind Stephen Strasburg and David Price) at an average of 95.96 mph. But, naturally, you need to be able to do more than just throw a ball hard to succeed; a pitcher needs to convert that heat into strikeouts. Samardzija’s 12.1 percent swinging strike rate and 24.9 percent strikeout rate ranked sixth and seventh (minimum 150 innings), respectively, in all of baseball.
If Samardzija can improve on his career low 7.8 percent walk rate from last season (the league average usually hovers around 8.0 percent), reduce his home runs allowed (he gave up 20 long balls in 2012) and develop that all-important consistency every pitcher needs, he’ll be primed to take another big step in his development.
If and when that time comes, he’ll officially earn the label “The Man.” But the always confident Samardzija isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight.
“That’s what I signed up for,” Samardzija said. “If you don’t want those expectations for yourself, then you may as well go play somewhere else. That’s just kind of a given. There’s going to be pressure, and there’s going to be a lot riding on what you do.”
The Cubs will run out most of their projected starters today at HoHoKam against Giants righty Matt Cain. Cain is coming off another exceptional season, which saw him compile a 16-5 record and a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts. That was good for sixth in the 2012 NL Cy Young voting.
Len Kasper will broadcast today’s game on mlb.com. Here is the lineup:
On Monday morning, Vine Line was on hand for the Cubs annual photo day in Mesa, Ariz., where we got a chance to talk to Cubs manager Dale Sveum, pitching coach Chris Bosio, hitting coach James Rowson and first-base coach Dave McKay about their expectations for the 2013 season.
Vine Line will be posting videos and content from Fitch Park and HoHoKam Stadium all week long, so keep an eye on the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.
Infielder Logan Watkins participated in this week’s Cubs Rookie Development Program.
(Photo by Rodger Wood)
Since Theo Epstein was named Cubs President of Baseball Operations in November 2011, the organization has been stressing the Cubs Way. After getting a full season to view their minor league talent, upper management decided to give a select group of prospects a small crash course on what Cubs baseball is all about.
Starting last Friday, 12 prospects the organization feels are knocking on the major league door have been in Chicago for the club’s first annual Rookie Development Program. The prospects have spent their time going to seminars, practicing at Northwestern University and getting better acclimated to the ways of major league baseball.
“The whole thought behind it really is to get some players in the minor leagues … expose them to the market, get them in a smaller group and talk about what to expect when they get here, how to be professionals, how to handle the media, how to deal with the fans,” said Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod.
The minor leaguers, including notables Javier Baez, Matt Szczur and Trey McNutt, have received instruction from former pitcher Kerry Wood, Bears linebacker Nick Roach and current pitching coach Chris Bosio. Former Cub Mark Prior was scheduled to fly in and speak to the group Thursday, though he is unable to make this weekend’s Cubs Convention.
Today’s low-key practice saw the pitchers throw a little long toss before getting on a mound, while the position players took fielding practice and eventually got some rounds in the batting cages.
The organization’s player and pitcher of the year, Logan Watkins and Nick Struck, were both in attendance. Others joining them were Dallas Beeler, Jae-Hoon Ha, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Zach Rosscup, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych. All players at the program are scheduled to be at this weekend’s Cubs Convention.
Alberto Cabrera could get a shot in the starting rotation in 2013. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Innings Pitched: 21.2 (25 G, 0 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 6.23 RA, 6.6 H, 7.5 BB, 0.4 HR, 11.2 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.1
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arb, First Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (94), Two-seam (94), Slider (83), Change (87)
If there’s a project worth keeping an eye on for 2013, it may be the one that pitching coach Chris Bosio started with Alberto Cabrera this season.
Bosio focused on making simple, yet fundamental, changes in pitchers this past Spring Training—things like grips, arm angles, pressure on the landing foot and other small tweaks that can unlock a pitcher’s potential. Cabrera was one of his earliest success stories, as Bosio had the (then) 23-year-old change his sinker grip, producing immediate results. The velocity of the pitch jumped into the mid- to high 90s, and it began darting away from left-handed hitters a lot like Steve Carlton’s slider, in the words of Bosio himself.
Now the Cubs feel they may have a future rotation candidate in Cabrera, who is slated to be stretched out in Triple-A Iowa to start next season.
There’s a lot to like with Cabrera, who was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. He stands 6-foot-4, has a live arm and throws with a free-and-easy delivery. In his first tour through the majors last season, he also showed an effective third pitch with his change-up.
He’s taken his lumps at every level along the way, but he’s shown the ability to bounce back and improve his second time through. The 2012 season represented his best yet in a number of areas, including a career-best 3.11 ERA in 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
Nowhere was Cabrera’s improvement more apparent than in his strikeout rate, which doubled from about 15 percent a year ago to more than 30 percent this season. And he was able to more or less maintain that standard in his brief major league stint, in which he struck out more than 27 percent of batters faced. Meanwhile, his walk rate halved from 10.3 percent to 5.7 percent, though he struggled with free passes in the majors. But the development was apparent across several of his component stats.
Let’s take a quick look at Cabrera’s PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card). It’s a limited set of information based on just 21 major league innings, but it does provide a glimpse of his relative strengths against batters on both sides of the plate.
Against right-handed hitters, Cabrera largely relies on his four-seam fastball and slider, using power stuff to blow away hitters. He deals with left-handers, on the other hand, by mixing in a hard change-up that fades away from the batter like his sinker, but it travels about seven miles per hour slower. He can also mix in his slider, attacking the batter inside and tying up swings.
The Cubs feel Cabrera may be more ready than ever for another shot at the rotation, where the organization tried him in the minor leagues up until this year. With the right-hander starting to truly unlock his live arm, it’s a project worth keeping an eye on.
Carlos Marmol recovered his velocity and fastball/slider mix in his second-half rebound. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Innings Pitched: 55.1 (61 G, 0 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 3.90 RA, 6.5 H, 7.3 BB, 0.7 HR, 11.7 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.2
2013 Contract Status: Signed (through 2013)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (94), Slider (85)
We saw both the good and the bad with Carlos Marmol in 2012—so which version will we see next season? That’s a tough question to answer, but after a great second half, the Cubs closer looks like he’s piecing together some of his old form.
The 2012 season was a bit of a roller coaster for the (then) 29-year-old closer. Marmol struggled with his command early on, lost the closer’s job in May and suffered a thigh strain that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. By mid-June, he did step back into the ninth inning role, where he saved 18 of his last 19 opportunities and had a 2.09 ERA. Pitching coach Chris Bosio worked to simplify things for Marmol, including getting him to stop shaking off his catchers for one game in early July. The experiment was a success, and the right-hander said it was a lesson that would stick with him.
Getting their closer right is important to the Cubs, who hope to rebuild their bullpen from within as they divert most of their resources to starting pitching. Since Marmol became a full-time big leaguer in 2007, he’s picked up 115 of the team’s 231 saves, including 92 in the past three seasons as the primary closer. His 32.7 strikeout percentage ranks seventh among MLB relievers who have pitched at least 100 innings since 2007, and his .167 batting average against is baseball’s fourth-best mark. On the flip side, his 15.3 walk percentage ranks last and has been a persistent problem in recent years.
Marmol fits in the category of two-pitch power relievers—the kind who trust the quality rather than quantity of their stuff. He throws a mid-90s four-seam fastball that has some run and a sweeping slider that, at its best, is one of the game’s true wipeout pitches. Early in his career, Marmol would throw his slider as much as his fastball early in the count, particularly against right-handed hitters. But he, via his catchers and coaches, has become a bit more conventional in his usage. This season, he threw a fastball in more than two-thirds of his first pitches before turning heavily to the slider when ahead in the count. His patterns versus right- and left-handed hitters are similar.
The nature of his slider has changed a bit in the last few seasons, as it’s lost some of its two-plane depth. In 2011, Marmol started throwing a smaller version of his slider—manager Dale Sveum said in February that he considered it a cutter—that somewhat blurred the large velocity and movement distinctions between his two pitches. That was scrapped this season. PITCHf/x movement data shows that the 2012 version of his slider ended up being more of a downward-biting pitch (particularly in relation to his fastball).
Marmol also threw his slider harder than ever before—reaching more than 85 mph on average by season’s end. But it’s important to note he was throwing his hardest overall since the beginning of 2010. This increase in velocity coincided with large improvements in all of his numbers, including hits, walks, strikeouts and runs allowed. That’s a good sign if Marmol can carry it into next season.
One thing we cannot evaluate with available PITCHf/x data is command—in other words, the ability to hit a particular spot (as opposed to just the strike zone in general). Of course, that’s always going to be a key to Marmol’s success, and anecdotally, many thought it improved later in the year.
Marmol is now entering the final season of a three-year contract extension that bought out his first year of free-agent eligibility. It’s important for him to prove he can build on his second-half recovery when he takes the mound in 2013.
As the season stretched into July, Vine Line sat down with pitching coach Chris Bosio to talk about his first season with the North Siders. In the conversation, Bosio talks about joining a club in transition, the mental approach of the game, how he’s dealt with the bullpen and more.
To read the full interview, pick up the August issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area newsstands. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.