Results tagged ‘ Jeff Samardzija ’

Cubs Convention kicks off next Friday

CONVENTION-EPSTEIN-SESSION-011412-SG-47

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.

The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.

Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.

Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.

Additional Saturday sessions include:

  • Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
  • Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
  • From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
  • Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
  • For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
  • Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
  • Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
  • WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.

Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:

  • Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
  • Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.

In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:

Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.

Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.

MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.

The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.

The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.

American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.

The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.

Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.

Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.

Woody’s Winter Warm-Up tickets on sale now

Woody's-Winter-Warm-Up

(Art by Jerry Neumann)

Kerry Wood has spent most of his adult life honing his craft as a major league pitcher. So excuse him if he’s not a world-class bartender.

On Jan. 18, you’ll get your chance to see him in action and critique his skills as he slings drinks at the second annual Woody’s Winter Warm-Up at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier. Starting at 8:30 p.m., Wood will join former and current Cubs players, as well as local celebrities, behind the bar, where they will compete for tips with all proceeds benefitting the Wood Family Foundation. Wood said the event is a good time, and current players like Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija and James Russell are expected to attend.

“People want to give back and do it for a good cause,” Wood said. “Last year … people got really into it, and it was really cool.”

At the inaugural mixer in 2012, the Grammy-nominated band Plain White T’s performed. They even got a little help from former Cub Randy Wells and baseball president Theo Epstein on a few songs. The event raised more than $85,000, thanks to about 30 current and former players, who pitched in behind the bar or simply enjoyed the evening.

But don’t count on Wood to make you the best Old-Fashioned or dirty martini of your life, as he admits this probably won’t be a new career path.

“I’m really good at taking the tops of beers off with the opener,” Wood joked. “I pour a mean glass of wine, but I’m not a mixologist.”

Tickets are on sale now and in limited supply. For more information, visit woodfamilyfoundation.org.

Cubs 2013 ZiPs projections unveiled

CASTRO S

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Each year, sabermetric enthusiast Dan Szymborski compiles projected stats for the upcoming season for all major league players. Using an intricate formula, the computer-based projections, better known as ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), give an estimate for most notable offensive and pitching categories. Late last week, Szymborski unveiled his projections for the 2013 Cubs.

It should come as no surprise that shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are projected to make the biggest impact in 2013, each slated for a 4.0 WAR (wins above an average replacement player). Castro is projected to hit .294/.332/.446 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers, 12 triples, 24 stolen bases and 77 RBI. The slugging Rizzo rates out at .279/.349/.503, with 31 homers, 109 driven in and 32 doubles.

On the pitching side, Jeff Samardzija projects to be the best starter with a 3.1 WAR. He’s estimated to throw 169 innings, strike out 172 batters and record a 3.62 ERA.

According to Szymborski, newcomer Edwin Jackson should have an ERA around 3.91 over 186.2 innings and fan 159 hitters. His estimated WAR of 2.8 is slightly better than Matt Garza’s 2.7.

Projected WAR of starting pitching candidates:

Jeff Samardzija: 3.1
Edwin Jackson: 2.8
Matt Garza: 2.7
Scott Baker: 1.6
Carlos Villanueva: 1.4
Travis Wood: 1.3
Scott Feldman: 1.0

Projected WAR of starting lineup:

Starlin Castro: 4.0
Anthony Rizzo: 4.0
Darwin Barney: 2.3
Alfonso Soriano: 1.8
Welington Castillo: 1.6
David Dejesus: 1.1
Nate Schierholtz: 0.8
Ian Stewart: 0.4

1000 Words: Filling out the rotation

(Photo by Stephen Green)

With the Scott Baker signing last week and Tuesday’s acquisition of Scott Feldman, the trio of Jeff Samaradzija, Travis Wood and Matt Garza (from left) should have some proven company in the rotation for the start of the 2013 season.

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s Year in Review

The end of 2012 marks the culmination of many firsts. It was baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s first year at the Cubs’ helm. It was Dale Sveum’s first full season as a major league manager. It was Anthony Rizzo’s first year in a Cubs uniform and Jeff Samardzija’s first real experience in the rotation. It was also the first time since 1966 the team lost 100 games in a single season.

In other words, I think everybody is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2012 and popping the proverbial cork on a new year of Cubs baseball.

Although a 61-101 record isn’t what anyone involved with the Cubs was hoping for, everybody knew there was work to be done at the outset of the season. As we look back at the year, there were certainly stretches of good play, breakout performances, walk-off wins and plenty to feel positive about. But no one—from fans to players to the front office—is happy with where the team is right now.

“I don’t think a celebration is in order,” said Epstein on his one-year anniversary with the Cubs. “I have a lot more gray hair now than I had a year ago. My wife reminds me of that all the time. But I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”

In the December issue of Vine Line, the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles examines how the Cubs fared this year and what they did to strengthen their future prospects. It’s impossible to judge the 2012 calendar year by looking solely at the major league level. When Epstein, Hoyer and company came to Chicago, they talked of the need to restock the minor league system to provide a steady stream of homegrown talent to the big league club. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing. Respected hardball website Baseball Prospectus recently released a list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization, and six of the 10 players were acquired or drafted in 2012.

It all started with the 2012 first-year player draft, where the Cubs picked up outfielder Albert Almora (No. 1 on Baseball Prospectus’ list) and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson (No. 7) and Duane Underwood (No. 8). But it also included free agent signings like outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 3) and making full use of the trade deadline to fill organizational holes with players like right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 9).

To say goodbye to 2012, Vine Line and Chicago Cubs photographer Stephen Green also look back at the best photos from the past season. Green, in his 30th year with the team, was there for every moment, from Bill Murray’s Opening Day hijinks to Bryan LaHair’s walk-off single to cap off the year.

We also have a preview of the Cubs Convention, a Q&A with outfielder Dave Sappelt and much more. For these stories, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.

Cubsgrafs: Turkey trot

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Whether you’re all about the tryptophan-induced football coma or you prefer bowling away the holidays with your family, we’ve got a bonus, Thanksgiving-themed edition of Cubsgrafs for you.

Let’s define a new toy stat—a “turkey”—based on the nickname given when a bowler rolls three strikes in a row. For baseball, we’ll tally a turkey each time a pitcher records a three-pitch strikeout. The results for the 2012 season, limited to Cubs with at least 20 innings, are below.

So who are the Cubs’ 2012 turkey champions? The answers may surprise you.

It turns out three relievers—Scott Maine, Shawn Camp and Alberto Cabrera—stood above the rest with more than 6 percent turkeys per batter faced. But it’s Camp who deserves special recognition for being so efficient with the strikeouts he did rack up. Nearly four out of every 10 of his K’s took the minimum three pitches. It turns out that, while Camp may have been a fair bit below the team’s average strikeout rate, he also had the bullpen’s highest strike percentage (64%). It’s a definite boost for the Cubs that they’ve re-signed Camp for 2013.

Similarly, Travis Wood may have been only average with his strikeout rate, but he established himself as the rotation’s leader in three-pitch K’s. He and fellow lefty Paul Maholm were pretty efficient when they did rack up strikeouts, while the actual K kings Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster were a little less direct to the end goal.

Now, there’s not much reason to think that’s a bad thing. Many times you want a pitcher to bury his secondary offerings and get batters to chase. But for tonight’s feast, we’ll hand out the drumsticks to Camp and Wood and let the rest work their way through some sides first.

2013 Cubs Convention passes on sale now

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The MVP awards were handed out Thursday night, signifying the official end of the the 2012 baseball season. But just because Spring Training is still months away doesn’t mean Cubs fans can’t get their baseball fix.

From Jan. 18-20, Cubs faithful will have an opportunity to meet more than 50 current and former players, coaches and front office associates at the 28th annual Cubs Convention. For the first time in the event’s history, it will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St., and it promises to deliver all the fun and excitement of previous years.

Some of the headliners expected to attend this year include Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams; current stars Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Jeff Samardzija; and front office personnel like Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Individual weekend passes for the event went on sale earlier this month, and there are still some available. Each pass is $60 plus convenience fees. To purchase your pass, visit cubs.com or call 1-800-THE-CUBS.

Guests can also still book rooms at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers by calling the hotel at 800-233-4100. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate of $179/night plus tax. Guests who book a two-night stay will receive a limited edition, authenticated, autographed photo of Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

The convention will run from 1-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit cubs.com.

1000 Words: Cutler and the Shark

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Jeff Samardzija and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler dominated the gridiron, the hardwood and the baseball diamond in their Indiana high school days more than a decade ago. And they continue to dominate their respective sports. Samardzija was solid in his first year in the Cubs’ rotation, while Cutler currently has the 6-1 Bears sitting atop the NFC North division. Cutler stopped by Wrigley Field in July to throw out the first pitch and sing the stretch.

2012 Player Profile: Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija showed promise in his first major league season as a starter. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Innings Pitched: 174.2 (28 G-28 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 4.07 RA, 8.1 H, 2.9 BB, 1.0 HR, 9.3 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 3.4
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Arbitration, First Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (96), Sinker (95), Cutter (92), Splitter (86), Slider (85)

Perhaps nobody had higher expectations for Jeff Samardzija’s return to the rotation than the pitcher himself.

Samardzija was the Cubs’ most durable, and frequently most effective, starting pitcher this season. And he showed dramatic improvement in several areas that portend continued success.

Chief among them was his improved control. He walked just 7.8 percent of the batters he faced, significantly lower than the 13 percent rate he had in 2011, when he had a successful year out of the bullpen. His strikeouts increased from 23 percent to 25 percent, and his ground ball rate went from 43 percent to 47 percent. Samardzija leveraged his stuff better than before, even while doubling his innings before the Cubs shut him down after his Sept. 9 start.

To take a closer look at his arsenal, we’ll leverage PITCHf/x data as tagged by the excellent folks at Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus (player card). Our graphs here present pitch usage as variants of fastballs (blue) and offspeed (green).

Both of Samardzija’s fastballs sit in the mid- to high-90s, and his sinker is made even more impressive by his ability to run a few extra inches of movement while matching the velocity of his four-seamer. Overall, he likes to move pitches away from batters—using more sinkers and splitters that fade away from lefties, while employing the cutter and slider against righties.

The splitter is Samardzija’s No. 1 weapon, and his improved command of his fastball has made the split even more devastating. Samardzija used the splitter, which averages 86 MPH, 20 percent of the time versus lefties and 12 percent against righties. He rarely threw it on the first pitch but employed it a third of the time when ahead in the count.

And there was specific improvement with the pitch too: Comparing 2011 to 2012, his splitter was called for a ball less often (46% to 37%), got more swings (49% to 59%) and got more whiffs when a batter did swing (43% to 46%). The last number has been part of a career improvement—in 2009 and 2010, Samardzija’s whiff/swing rate on the splitter was 24 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

All of which is to say that the right-hander’s improvement has been real and is likely sustainable. Samardzija, who turns 28 in January, is under team control through the 2015 season. He still stands to improve his consistency, but digging into the components of his 2012 campaign suggests he could be a workhorse atop the rotation for years to come.

Cast your vote for the best of 2012

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Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.

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