Results tagged ‘ Dale Sveum ’

2012 Player Profile: Carlos Marmol

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.

Let’s take a closer look with PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card).

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.

Now Playing: Anthony Rizzo Safe at Home

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.

Now Playing: In the Dugout with Dale Sveum

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.

Cubs catching fire

Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.

During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.

Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.

Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).

Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.

Now Playing: In the Dugout with Dale Sveum

As the Cubs neared the halfway point of the season, Vine Line sat down with manager Dale Sveum to talk about the state of the team. In our monthly conversation, we covered the Cubs’ early struggles, the dismissal of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and how Sveum will be spending the All-Star break.

To read the full interview, pick up the July 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.

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.

Now Playing: Red Sox invade Wrigley

When the Boston Red Sox come to Wrigley Field, the entire baseball world stands at attention. Today, the Sox came to town for only the second time in history. Vine Line was there along with Cubs Manager Dale Sveum, MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons, Darwin Barney, and thousands of Cubs and Sox faithful to soak in the excitement.

Now Playing: In the Dugout with Dale Sveum

In Vine Line‘s monthly conversation with Cubs Manager Dale Sveum, we cover everything from the breakout season of Bryan LaHair to the fate of erstwhile closer Carlos Marmol. To read the full interview, pick up the June issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area newsstands. Or subscribe to Vine Line for just $29.95.

The Crosstown Classic invades Wrigley Field

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After Friday’s 3-2 loss, the Cubs now sit 39-46 against the White Sox since Interleague Play began in 1997. They do still hold a 22-21 record against the Sox at Wrigley Field.

Prior to the game, Manager Dale Sveum discussed his excitement about getting the noteworthy series underway:

“You don’t want to say it’s different than any other game, but they really are. That’s just the way it is. … Everything’s more magnified, the fans are into it, they’re going to stay longer, it’s a whole different atmosphere than any other game. It’s like being in the playoffs but you’re not. … To me, it’s like Christmas morning. You can’t wait till that morning comes. You get up earlier. It’s different than any other game.”

Cubs center fielder Tony Campana discussed what it’s like to play in front of the Wrigley bleachers:

“I’m sure it’s [ going to be crazy]. They’re always pretty rowdy out there, so I’m sure it’s a little more so because you’ve got both sides out there.”

Finally, Cubs play-by-play TV announcer Len Kasper broke down the series from the booth:

“I think it’s neat that you have two major league teams in a city. It’s always fun. There’s always extra energy in the ballpark. I think it’s as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get in the month of May.”

LaHair the All-Star?

The season is just over a month in, but it’s becoming hard for fans and opposing managers alike to ignore first baseman Bryan LaHair and his thunderous bat. Then again, baseball minds have been ignoring LaHair’s career for a while now.

The 29-year-old spent nine seasons in the minors, where he posted a .295 career average. His only two stints in the big leagues were 150 plate appearances in the second half of 2008 with the Mariners and a September call-up with the Cubs last year (after hitting .331 with 38 home runs and 109 RBI in 129 games for Triple-A Iowa). But prior to Spring Training, first-year manager Dale Sveum handed LaHair the Opening Day job at first base, where he’s capitalized on his opportunity and become the most recent poster child for never giving up.

If deciding the All-Star team was based on stats alone, the left-handed slugger would be a lock. Below shows where he compares with other National League first basemen who have played at least 18 games this year:

Batting Average:
1. Bryan LaHair – .384
2. Lyle Overbay, ARI – .333
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – .316

On-Base Percentage:
1. Bryan LaHair – .476
2. Lyle Overbay, ARI – .440
3. Joey Votto, CIN – .439

Slugging Percentage:
1. Bryan LaHair – .767
2. Adam LaRoche, WSH – . 524
3. Garrett Jones, PIT – .529

Hits:
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 35
2. Bryan LaHair – 33
3. Yonder Alonso, SD – 31

Runs:
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 22
2. Joey Votto, CIN – 16
3. Bryan LaHair – 14

Doubles:
1. Joey Votto, CIN – 15
2. Yonder Alonso, SD – 11
3. Bryan LaHair – 9

Home Runs:
1. Bryan LaHair – 8
2. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 6
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – 5

RBI:
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 26
2. Todd Helton, COL – 21
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – 19
4. Bryan LaHair – 18

Walks:
1. Joey Votto, CIN – 27
2. Bryan LaHair – 16
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – 15

Among NL first basemen, nobody’s name pops up at the top of the league’s most important stats as often as LaHair’s. With his feel-good story, the Cubs enormous following and his gaudy numbers, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs clean-up hitter taking the field on July 10 in Kansas City along with the rest of the game’s elite.

Cast your vote for LaHair or any of your other favorite Cubs here.

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