Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’
The ability to steal bases consistently puts pressure on opposing defenses and allows runners to get into scoring position without the benefit of a hit. And no one does it better than Tony Campana. The Cubs center fielder is currently tied for the major league lead in stolen bases at 24 with Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon. But Campana has only 143 at-bats to Gordon’s 274. In other words, Campana knows how to swipe a bag.
For the July issue of Vine Line, Campana showed Cubs fans how he does it by getting a good lead, keeping an eye on the pitcher and using proper footwork. For more insider access to the Cubs, subscribe to Vine Line. And read the complete story in the July issue, which also features articles on the likely Cubs All-Stars, the legacy of Kerry Wood and the fans’ all-time best Cubs lineup.
Though the Cubs sit in the cellar of the NL Central with a 25-48 record, it would be difficult to find an uninterested person around Wrigley Field Tuesday afternoon. That’s because elite first base prospect Anthony Rizzo will make his Cubs debut tonight as they take on the Mets.
The 22-year-old fielded questions from the media before taking batting practice, where most of the eyes—and cameras—were on him.
“I’m just going to work hard every day, learn, get better, go through the ups and downs of a baseball player,” Rizzo said.
The slugger was hitting .342 with 23 homers and 62 RBI in 70 games for the Triple-A affiliate prior to his promotion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Cubs take a trip down the Dan Ryan Expressway this week en route to U.S. Cellular Field for the second leg of the BP Crosstown Cup. To add some fuel to Chicago rivalry, we’re breaking down the position-by-position matchups for both teams, starting today with starters and bullpens.
Matt Garza (2-5, 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) vs. Zach Stewart (1-1, 5.18 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 5.55 K/9)
The Cubs will have an opportunity to jump out to an early lead in the series with the Sox’s Zach Stewart making his first start of the season. Last year, Stewart completed seven innings just once in eight starts after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a July trade.
But this may not be a sure thing. For a starter many believed was the Cubs’ ace going into Opening Day, Matt Garza has struggled a bit, especially of late. In his first six outings, Garza had a 2.59 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and was striking out 9.19 batters per nine innings. In his last six outings, those numbers have worsened dramatically (5.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.55 K/9). With Adam Dunn and Alex Rios bouncing back, Paul Konerko likely having the best season of his career and many others hitting better than expected, Garza will have to pitch well to outlast the tough White Sox lineup.
Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) vs. Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.83 K/9)
Travis Wood has been a consistent and solid addition to the Cubs’ rotation since joining the major league club in early May. The southpaw has completed five innings in all six of his starts and has gotten through the sixth in three of them. He’s only had one bad outing (5 IP, 6 ER, 7 H vs. the Padres, a game the Cubs still won) and has surrendered no more than three earned runs in five of six starts.
The Sox have been successful this season in part due to Jake Peavy’s return to dominance. After starting just 35 games over the last two seasons for the South Siders, Peavy entered camp healthy this year, and his numbers show he is back to his old, dominant form. One number that might be helping his cause is a .239 batting average on balls in play. Given the league average hovers somewhere around .300 and the Sox have a good-but-not-great defense, there might be some luck involved to his fast start.
Ryan Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) vs. Gavin Floyd (4-7, 5.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.5 K/9)
Gavin Floyd has struggled of late to say the least. In his last six starts, he is 1-4 with a 10.71 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP. However, Floyd is still managing to strike out just better than one batter per inning.
Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, has been one of the National League’s most consistently dominant starters all season. Because of poor run support, the 35-year-old won his first start just three outings ago. Prior to his first win on June 5, the Cubs were averaging 2.89 runs per game in Dempster’s starts. But he has won each of his last three because the bats have finally livened up behind him.
While neither bullpen has been automatic this year, the Sox’s ‘pen has fared significantly better than that of the Cubs. Closer Addison Reed has converted eight of nine chances this season, while Matt Thornton (3.38 ERA) and Jesse Crain (2.18 ERA, 10.9 K/9) have been solid setup men.
The Cubs have a 4.51 bullpen ERA, second-worst in baseball, and have saved just nine games total, the lowest total in baseball. James Russell (2.56 ERA) and Shawn Camp (3.74 ERA) have both been good middle/late-innings relievers, but the closer spot is still a revolving door. It appears Carlos Marmol has regained that job after returning from a recent demotion.
Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll feature the infielders.
Chicago fans, though, should take note of Cincinnati’s 16 hits in the 10-inning game. As Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus points out in July’s Scorecard EXTRA (above), the hot-hitting Reds will look to do more of the same, putting runs on the board and pressure on the Cubs hitters.
In a scene almost straight out of a 1947 Cubs game, a ballpark full of fans sat in darkness for 18 minutes when the power went out last night at Wrigley Field in the top of the fourth inning.
Click here to read the full story.
But staff photographer Steve Green was there to capture it. As a front office person, it is not unusual to a dark ballpark. In fact that’s how we see it most of the time. But to see it dark–with people inside it–that was strange. I imagine this is what Cubs games were like before lights and teams had to play until the last bit of sunlight was exhausted. Though the game was delayed, it provided an interesting shot for Steve.
omplete our Vine Line survey and be eligible to win a bag full of Cubs gear!
Thanks to our friends at the Blackhawks who sent us this photo of Chicago Cubs players taking in Game 1 of the NHL playoffs first round last Friday. Each player is wearing a custom jersey, complete with nicknames, personalized for them. Can you identify every player?
Good luck to the Hawks tonight as they head to Nashville for Game 3.
Check out the new Vine Line online at cubs.com/vineline, complete with new photo galleries from Opening Day, the debut of our Vine Line Video Corner and links to subscribe to the top insider’s resource on the Cubs today.
In what has become an annual ritual, the Cubs made the trip to Sin City last night to take on our South Side rivals, the White Sox. It looked windy and cold last night; even during Lou Piniella’s interview with Len and Bob, Lou had to shield his eyes from the blowing dust.
Well, it is a desert, after all.
In any case, Las Vegas happens to hold a special place in my heart, being that my wife and I got married at the Monte Carlo.This is also the first time in nearly five seasons I haven’t followed the team up to Las Vegas from Mesa. Obviously, the trip is much earlier in spring training, so it wasn’t possible.
Cashman Field is an older ballpark by minor-league standards, and it is, like Len said, a bandbox. Home runs fly out easily with the wind and dry air doing nothing to keep fly balls in the park (more on that later). But it is quite roomy for spectators.
And every year Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (below with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Cubs skipper Lou Piniella) prances out to the mound with his two showgirls to throw out the first pitch. No wonder he’s the “Happiest Mayor in America.”
Last year I had a chance to talk to Goodman while I was there to cover the Cubs as they took on the Seattle Mariners. A very close friend of mine who was heavily involved with the Nevada Easter Seals introduced me to Goodman, whose effervescent personality was infectious. I asked him if he thought Las Vegas would see a Major League Baseball team.
“Absolutely. Someday we’ll see it here,” Goodman said. “But right now our job is to convince the powers that be that Las Vegas can be a viable city from a fan standpoint.”
My friend Scott reminded me that there are a lot of transplants in Las Vegas, from all over the country. Provincial team alliances will travel with these people–would they back a team in a city in which they did not grow up or value?
My feeling was yes. However, former Cubs president John McDonough once told me when it came to a city’s viability for a major-league team, it wasn’t so much the fan base, it was the corporate sponsorship base. If a city doesn’t have the corporate base to purchase all of those sky boxes, all of those sponsorships, all of that concourse and outfield signage, the team will have problems. But I think Las Vegas could do it.
D-Lee and D-Ganz
One of the most popular acts on the Las Vegas Strip is the 1000 voices of Danny Gans, at the Mirage. A talented singer and impersonator, Ganz also is a former minor-league and
college baseball player. In 1997, when Derrek Lee was a top prospect of the San Diego Padres and Las Vegas was the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, as a stadium promotion, both Gans and Lee agreed to participate in a home run contest, mano a mano.
That year, Lee was the Padres’ Minor-League Player of the Year. The derby consisted of two rounds, 10 swings each. Lee hit four homers in his first 10 swings. Gans, who most did not know had previous baseball experience, surprises everyone with three bombs of his own. After the first round, Lee walked over to Gans and joked: “Don’t make me look bad.”
Lee goes on to hit two more in the second round for a total of six. Gans, down by one, hits two more homers. On his last swing, Gans sends it deep to left center where it just bounces off the top of the wall and drops back into the outfield.
Final score: Lee 6, Gans 5.
“It was really the talk of the town for a while,” Gans said. ”The [then-] Stars actually signed me to a contract. The way it was structured, I could come in and DH. You know, if they were ahead, they’d put me in. I was thrilled. However, the Mirage didn’t want me to do that because if I got out there, they were afraid some cocky pitcher would throw at my head.”
Ah, show business. Only in Las Vegas.
To subscribe to Vine Line, visit http://cubs.mlb.com/chc/fan_forum/vineline.jsp.