Results tagged ‘ Luis Valbuena ’
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the few Cubs hitting well with runners in scoring position. (Photo by Stephen Green)
On many occasions throughout Cubs manager Dale Sveum’s tenure, he has made it clear that slugging percentage (total bases divided by at-bats) is his go-to number when evaluating a player’s approach at the plate.
On paper, the 2013 Cubs’ power stats look good. The team’s .420 slugging percentage is second best in the National League, largely thanks to the squad’s 48 homers (third in NL) and whopping 101 doubles (15 more than the next-highest NL total). But like many stats, these numbers can be a bit deceiving. While displaying strong power stats is never a bad thing, baseball is predicated on timely hitting. As the graph below indicates, the Cubs struggle with men in scoring position compared with other NL teams.
The Cubs sit in the top five of most common statistical categories with nobody on base, but those same numbers drop drastically with men on second and/or third. It’s interesting to note that their home run and doubles don’t decrease, though the slash line takes a huge hit. We also looked at the eight regular position players to see how they have fared with the bases empty versus with runners in scoring position.
Of the eight regulars, just two are hitting better with runners in scoring position than with the bases empty. And while Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena have a higher slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, the same cannot be said for the rest of the team.
The basic stats make it look like the Cubs have one of the better offenses in the National League, but they’re going to need some more timely hitting for those stats to have an impact in the standings.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Teammates congratulate Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena after he ripped a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning to give the North Siders a 4-3 win Thursday night in Miami. The Cubs play three more games against the Marlins before heading home to Wrigley to take on the Padres April 29.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Earlier this week, the Cubs announced that third baseman Ian Stewart will begin the season on the disabled list with a lingering quad issue, further weakening a spot in the order that already lacked offensive punch in 2012. Manager Dale Sveum likes what he sees defensively in the multifaceted Luis Valbuena, who was solid with the glove last year and is currently hitting .282 in 42 plate appearances this spring. But it appears his inablilty to hit lefties (.196 in 2012) has opened the door for fellow utilityman Brent Lillbridge.
It sounds as if the 29-year-old right-hander will get his chances against lefties, at least to open the season, as Sveum has already said Lillibridge is a “no brainer” for the Opening Day roster. Despite hitting just .195 for the White Sox, Boston and Cleveland last season, Lillibridge has crushed Spring Training pitching, hitting .458 in 24 plate appearances. His addition will also give the Cubs some defensive flexibility, as he played every position but pitcher and catcher last year.
In 2011, his finest season in the majors, Lillibridge hit .258/.340/505 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 13 homers and stole 10 bases in 97 games. With Wandy Rodriguez in the Pirates’ front three, don’t be surprised to see Lillibridge get the start at least once in the opening series.
Though the Cactus League season doesn’t officially get started until tomorrow, it was Cub on Cub again Friday afternoon at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. Former Brewer and Astro Edwin Maysonet propelled the White team to a 6-3 win with a “walk off” three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth off reliever Jensen Lewis. Of course, being Spring Training, the Blue team still had to get the last out, so the game wasn’t officially over until the next batter, Brent Lillibridge, grounded out to short.
There were some standout offensive performances in the brief, five-inning game. Manager Dale Sveum praised the hitters, who seemed to be a little ahead of the pitchers today. Between both sides, there were eight free passes issued in the game.
“Any time you’re getting quality at-bats [you're happy],” Sveum said. “And quality at-bats are sometimes are just that—just not swinging at pitcher’s pitches, the borderline strike, getting yourself out quick, getting yourself out in fastball counts, those things. That’s what we’re trying to eliminate is quick outs because of bad pitch selection.”
Blue team center fielder Brett Jackson’s retooled swing was on full display Friday, as he finished the day 3-for-3 with two doubles, a run scored, an RBI and a stolen base. Jackson struggled in his first call-up to the big leagues last season, hitting just .175 with four home runs, nine RBI and 59 strikeouts in 120 at-bats. He spent most of the offseason at the Cubs practice facility in Mesa reworking his swing to produce more contact.
“It’s a big confidence boost,” Jackson said. “I worked really hard this offseason. To make a muscle memory-type adjustment is a pain in the [butt], so to see results is good. I’m going to keep pounding on that to keep reinforcing so that it [becomes] second nature.”
Designated hitter Dave Sappelt, who is in a good position to win an extra outfield spot on the 2013 squad, also went 3-for-3 with a little help from the Arizona sun. He singled in the first, doubled in the third and hit a deep, soaring pop fly in the fifth that White team center fielder Matt Szczur lost in the bright sky.
“I’m not too concerned about Sappelt,” Sveum said. “The guy has put himself in that category where he can kind of just hit.”
Utility infielder Luis Valbuena also drilled a two-run home run off reliever Micheal Bowdon to tie the game 3-3 in the fourth.
The press corps was a little larger at the park today because Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa was making his Cubs debut. Though he didn’t look particularly sharp, he did work one scoreless inning of relief. After the game, Fujikawa commented that several Cubs pitchers told him about how the dry Arizona air affects the way a ball moves.
“He’s a veteran guy who’s thrown a lot of innings in key situations in Japan,” Sveum said. “But you do want to see him in key situations against really good National League and American League hitters. Just to see how it all matches up.”
The Cubs will play their first official game at 1 p.m. local time tomorrow afternoon against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the infield. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
Darwin Barney had a breakout season in 2012 on the defensive side of the ball, winning a much-deserved Gold Glove, but his bat still leaves something to be desired. With a front office that highly values the ability to get on base, Barney’s sub-.300 OBP could be a cause for concern. While his glove alone makes him playable on an everyday basis, it will be interesting to see if he can improve enough offensively to help ease any doubts Theo Epstein and company may have about his future role.
Starlin Castro deserves credit for realizing that despite a solid batting average, he can still improve as an all-around hitter. Under the tutelage of new hitting coach James Rowson, who took over when Rudy Jaramillo was relieved of his duties on June 12, Castro was asked midseason to alter his aggressive style at the plate. He struggled at first, which explains why his batting average fell when Rowson took over. However, toward the end of the season, something seemed to click. Not only did his batting average rebound to a respectable .283, but he was also walking and hitting for more power. With a full offseason of training under his belt, expect an improved approach at the plate to lead to big things in 2013.
Anthony Rizzo hit 15 home runs in just 87 games after a midseason call-up. In his second season, he’ll be relied upon, along with Alfonso Soriano, to provide much of the power for the Cubs’ offense. Rizzo will likely slot back into the three hole, where the Cubs envision he’ll be a mainstay for the better part of the next decade. And his defense at first will also keep up the high standards set by his predecessors Derrek Lee and Mark Grace.
The biggest question mark is what will happen at third base. With a lack of options in the minors or via free agency, the Cubs decided to retain veteran Ian Stewart. It appears the team will enter Spring Training with Stewart battling Luis Valbuena for the bulk of the playing time. Though both left-handed hitters struggled with the bat last season, Stewart’s ceiling is much higher, as he provides plus defense and has shown in the past that he has solid power (25 home runs in 2009). If Stewart can prove his issues over the past few seasons were actually the result of a nagging wrist injury—which he finally had surgically repaired in July—it’s possible the Cubs may once again get solid production from the hot corner. Otherwise, look for Stewart, Valbuena or whomever else the Cubs may find, to serve as placeholders until one of the organization’s third-base prospects is ready to step in and assume the role on a long-term basis.
Cubs outfielder Dave Sappelt was one of the top performers in the Venezuelan league this winter (Photo by Stephen Green).
Winter league regional play finally came to a conclusion last night as Magallanes fended off Luis Valbuena and his Lara squad to win the Venezuelan title and claim the final spot in the Caribbean Series. The offseason leagues were an opportunity for players to rack up a few more innings of experience while still competing at a high level. Many of the Cubs took advantage of the opportunity, and some excelled in their respective leagues. Below is a list of Cubs representatives who fared well this winter.
Michael Bowden: Pitching for the Aguilas Cibaenas, Bowden posted a 2.76 ERA in 32.2 innings of work. He earned a 3-2 record and struck out 35 batters.
Alberto Cabrera: Playing for the Toros del Este, the Dominican native was used more frequently in the postseason. In 19.2 innings and four starts, Cabrera went 1-1 with a 0.92 ERA, fanning 15 batters and walking just six. He surrendered two earned runs in the playoffs.
Junior Lake: Representing the Estrellas de Oriente, Lake tore apart opposing pitchers, finishing with a line of .312/.382/.474 (AVG/OBP/SLG). The infielder was one of the Cubs’ top performers, hitting five homers, driving in 24 and stealing 11 bases in 154 at-bats.
Nelson Perez: A teammate of Lake’s in the Dominican, Perez was often utilized as a bat off the bench. In 84 at-bats, he compiled a .443 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks and driving in 21. The Estrellas made the playoffs but were eliminated in the round robin portion.
Esmailin Caridad: The lone Cubs representative who will be participating in the Caribbean Series, Caridad was a solid bullpen arm this winter. In 42.0 innings during the regular season, the righty had a 2.57 ERA, struck out 49 and walked 12.
Jay Jackson: Jackson put up consistent numbers for the Venados de Mazatlan, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49.0 innings of work. The righty went 3-2 and struck out 34 batters over 10 starts.
Yoanner Negrin: In 12 starts for the Leones del Caracas, Negrin was tough to beat. Not a huge strikeout guy (38 K in 58.2 innings), the righty still managed a 2.61 ERA and a 4-1 record.
Dave Sappelt: Sappelt was another elite player this winter. In 116 at-bats, the outfielder put up a .336/.378/.526 line, belting five home runs and five doubles. He also stole five bases and drove in 15.
Luis Valbuena: One of the top performers in all the winter leagues, Valbuena powered his Cardenales de Lara side all the way to the Venezuelan championship. The Cardenales were eliminated last night, losing 11-9 in a back-and-forth Game 7 affair. During the regular season, the Cubs infielder hit .306/.414/.497 with 39 RBI in 183 at-bats. He also drew 34 walks. All of those totals were good enough for top 10 in the league. In the postseason, he hit .341 and drove in 21 in 91 at-bats.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena continues to be a factor in the Venezuelan league championship series. Though Magallanes claimed a 7-3 win over Valbeuna’s Cardenales squad, the 27-year-old Cubs infielder managed to rip a solo home run in the top of the second inning to continue his torrid stretch.
In 22 postseason games, Valbuena is hitting .345/.412/.563 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with four home runs and 21 RBI. He posted a .306/.414/.497 line in the Venezuelan regular season.
The series concludes Wednesday night as the Navegantes hosts Lara in a decisive Game 7. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 CST, with the winner representing Venezuela in the Caribbean Series.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
As if Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena hasn’t played a big enough role for the Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela’s championship series against Magallanes, the 27-year-old was heavily involved in his team’s 3-2, 11-inning, Game 5 victory Monday night.
Valbuena finished the night 1-for-4 with a pivotal run scored. He singled to right in the sixth and moved to third after a C.J. Retherford single. But Valbuena was thrown out at home trying to score on a sacrifice fly to center, leaving the game tied at 2.
With a man on in the bottom of the 11th, Valbuena reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. With runners on first and second, Retherford also attempted a bunt, but Magallanes got the runner at third. After Tomas Perez walked to load the bases, Jose Yepez singled to center to score Valbuena and give Lara a 3-2 series lead.
Former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano started for the Navegantes, allowing eight hits, one earned run and striking out five over six innings.
Game six is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
With the Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican titles all wrapped up as of the weekend, the Venezuelan championship is the only show in town. The Navegantes del Magallanes grabbed a 6-5 win over the Cardenales on Saturday to tie the best-of-seven series at 2.
On Friday though, Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena was again the story of the game in a 4-2 Lara win. The 27-year-old finished the day 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk, an RBI and a run scored to continue his stellar winter.
Though Valbuena was ultimately stranded at second after a double in the bottom of the first, he led off the fourth with another double. After moving to third on a wild pitch, he scored what would prove to be the winning run on a Jose Yepez double.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Valbuena drew a walk to give the Cardenales an insurance run and ultimately seal the win.
Lara hosts Magallanes Monday in a 7:30 p.m. matchup, and the teams head to Magallanes Tuesday for Game 6. The seventh game will be on Wednesday if necessary.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
With each of the Caribbean leagues playing its championship series and a trip to the Caribbean Series on the line, scoring runs is as important as ever for the remaining teams. Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena, who has been key in the Cardenales de Lara’s run to the Venezuelan championship, was again at the center of his squad’s 3-0, Game 2 victory Thursday night over the Magalleanes.
Though he only had one hit in the game, he kicked off the scoring in the top of the fifth with a solo shot to right to give Lara a lead they would not relinquish. The Cardenales scored two more runs that inning to seal up the win.
Valbuena’s .333/.400/.551 (AVG/OBP/SLG) postseason numbers are each in the top 10 in Venezuela, and his .951 on-base percentage ranks fourth. His 18 RBI are tied for tops in the league.
The winner of the seven-game series will be awarded a place in the Caribbean Series, a de facto tournament of champions between Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Caribbean Series starts Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 7.