Results tagged ‘ Dale Sveum ’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
1. Bryan LaHair – .384
2. Lyle Overbay, ARI – .333
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – .316
1. Bryan LaHair – .476
2. Lyle Overbay, ARI – .440
3. Joey Votto, CIN – .439
1. Bryan LaHair – .767
2. Adam LaRoche, WSH – . 524
3. Garrett Jones, PIT – .529
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 35
2. Bryan LaHair – 33
3. Yonder Alonso, SD – 31
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 22
2. Joey Votto, CIN – 16
3. Bryan LaHair – 14
1. Joey Votto, CIN – 15
2. Yonder Alonso, SD – 11
3. Bryan LaHair – 9
1. Bryan LaHair – 8
2. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 6
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – 5
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL – 26
2. Todd Helton, COL – 21
3. Adam LaRoche, WSH – 19
4. Bryan LaHair – 18
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.
By now, many are aware of Cubs Manager Dale Sveum’s ties to the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He spent 1986-91 as a player with the franchise to the north. Then from 2006-11, he acted at various times as the team’s bench coach, third base coach, hitting coach and interim manager. But he isn’t the only Cubs skipper in the last decade to have ties to the Brew Crew.
Rene, who went 0-1 as the Cubs’ interim manager in 2002, also spent time at the helm of the Brewers. Lachemann was an assistant to Don Baylor from 2000-02 with the Cubs, but he managed the team on July 5, 2002, against the Braves–the night Baylor was fired and before Bruce Kimm relieved him of his duties. Matt Clement picked up the loss in a 4-3 defeat.
Lachemann managed the Brewers during the 1984 season. There were high hopes for the squad, which was only two years removed from losing the World Series in seven games. But Lachemann’s team finished a disappointing 67-94, and he was fired with three games remaining in the season.
CHICAGO—Win or lose, nothing beats Opening Day at Wrigley Field. Though the Cubs were unable to finish off Ryan Dempster’s 10-strikeout Opening Day gem, falling 2-1 to the Nationals, the excitement over the 2012 team was palpable. The Wrigley faithful packed the streets by 8 a.m. to check out the new offerings at the Friendly Confines, including the LED scoreboard in right field, the Budweiser Patio, and the Cubs Store on the corner of Clark and Addison. Vine Line was there along with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Hall of Famer Billy Williams and Manager Dale Sveum to kick off the baseball season in style.
Last Friday, Manager Dale Sveum set his lineup against the Dodgers the same way he plans on setting it Thursday against the Washington Nationals on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.
1. David DeJesus – RF
2. Darwin Barney – 2B
3. Starlin Castro – SS
4. Bryan LaHair – 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano – LF
6. Ian Stewart – 3B
7. Marlon Byrd – CF
8. Geovany Soto – C
9. Ryan Dempster – P
Throughout the spring, there was speculation about the top of the order, mainly over where Castro would bat. Sveum even toyed with Soriano in the leadoff spot, but after a powerful preseason (.316, six homers, five doubles), Soriano landed in the middle of the order. Barney was rewarded for his .392 Cactus League average with the second slot, and, despite a slow first half of spring, LaHair turned it around enough to secure the cleanup spot.