Results tagged ‘ Matt Garza ’

Cubs Convention kicks off next Friday

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(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.

Cubs 2013 ZiPs projections unveiled

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(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

Cubs agree to terms with RHP Edwin Jackson

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After narrowly missing out on free agent starter Anibal Sanchez last month, the Cubs rang in the New Year by coming to terms with right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson. The 29-year-old signed a reported four-year, $52 million deal—the largest given out by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer during their brief tenure—and should be a key piece of the Cubs’ rotation in 2013 and beyond.

“He fits very well on the team in 2013, but we think he fits even better with the team going forward as a core member of what we’re trying to build here in Chicago,” Hoyer said. “His talent, his age, and everything we’ve learned about him as a teammate were all part of the reasons we decided to add him to the roster.”

Jackson has called more than a few places home since his 2003 debut with the Dodgers. The 6-foot-3 power arm, who has averaged 94.1 MPH on his fastball throughout his career, was selected out of high school in the sixth round of the 2001 draft by Los Angeles, and was the youngest player in the National League in 2003 and 2004. He was traded to the Rays in 2006 and got his first regular work in a major league rotation in 2007. After the Rays’ 2008 playoff run, Jackson’s travels really started.

Since 2009, the starter has had stints with the Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals and Nationals. The Cubs will be the seventh team Jackson has played for since 2008 (excluding his trade from the White Sox to the Blue Jays, who sent him to the Cardinals later that day, on July 27, 2011).

“It definitely feels great [to have signed a long-term deal],” Jackson said. “I think the most assuring part is that you have a chance to relax and know that you’re going to be somewhere for a while. You don’t have to feel like you have to prove yourself every year. I think it’s definitely going to help for me to just go out and have fun and not have to worry about anything else.”

Jackson spent last season with the NL East champion Nationals, where he posted a 10-11 record and a 4.03 ERA. The Nationals did not tender Jackson a qualifying offer, so he will not cost the Cubs a draft pick.

In 10 major league seasons, Jackson owns a 70-71 record with a 4.40 ERA and 969 strikeouts in 1,268.2 innings (6.9 K/9). He has reached 31 or more starts in each of his last six seasons, has recorded double-digit wins in each of the last five seasons and has exceeded 180.0 innings pitched in each of the last five seasons. The 2009 All-Star with Detroit also pitched a no-hitter for the Diamondbacks in 2010 and won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011.

“Edwin is 29 years old, and he’s already had six consecutive seasons of making 30-plus starts,” Hoyer said. “He’s proven his durability, he’s proven his talents, but he’s also still at an age where we think he can get even better.”

The Cubs have been extremely aggressive in remaking their rotation this offseason. Prior to the Jackson signing, they had already signed starters Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva to complement Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood.

“As a pitching staff, when you get pitchers that are competitive and pitchers that want to go out and win, it definitely helps,” said Jackson, who pitched alongside Garza in Tampa Bay. “Everyone is pulling on each other’s coattails, and it’s a positive competitiveness.”

Jackson has a 1-2 career record at Wrigley Field with a 7.94 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Jacksonstats

1000 Words: Back on the bump

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs pitcher Matt Garza resumed throwing earlier this week, after rehabbing a stress reaction in his throwing elbow that caused him to miss the last two months of the 2012 season. He’s expected to be ready to go for Spring Training.

This is one of the extra shots from our December Photos of the Year feature that we didn’t have room for in the magazine. The see all the best shots, pick up the December issue of Vine Line.

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.

1000 Words: Happy birthday Matt Garza

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs right-hander Matt Garza turned 29 years old today. Coincidentally, his attire in this shot from May isn’t far off from what would be required to stay warm at Wrigley as December approaches.

2012 Player Profile: Matt Garza

Matt Garza altered his pitch selection this season, becoming more effective with his slider. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Innings Pitched: 103.2 (18 G-18 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 4.17 RA, 7.8 H, 2.8 BB, 1.3 HR, 8.3 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 1.2
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Arbitration, Third Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (94), Sinker (94), Change-up (86), Slider (85), Curve (76)

Few major league pitchers show Matt Garza’s fire. And it doesn’t matter if he’s fronting the Cubs rotation or being a top-step teammate. Unfortunately, he had to do a bit too much of the latter in 2012.

It could be said that it was an off year for Garza, but a large part of that was in comparison to his lofty first year in a Cubs uniform. He also missed almost the entire second half of the season due to a stress fracture in his elbow and finished with a 3.91 ERA, a few steps off the 3.32 mark he had in his Cubs debut. This will be an important offseason for the Cubs: Garza is under team control for one more year before he becomes eligible for free agency. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have publicly stated that they’d like to continue pursuing an extension with the soon-to-be 29-year-old, while also saying they’ll keep their options open until that happens.

Garza has perhaps been most notable for how he has reinvented himself as a pitcher since being acquired in a trade two winters ago. He’s induced significantly more ground balls, struck out more hitters and issued fewer free passes since coming over from the Rays.

We can deduce some of the reasons by taking a closer look with PITCHf/x data, as tagged by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card). Our graphs to the right present pitch usage as variants of fastballs (blue) and offspeed pitches (green).

In 2011, his first year as a Cub, Garza threw 62 percent more sliders and twice as many change-ups than he did in 2010. While he more or less went away from the change this season, his slider remains his wipe-out pitch. Garza got swings and misses more than 20 percent of the time with his slider, part of a consistent improvement in the effectiveness of that pitch over his big league career.

Interestingly, this year, Garza also started throwing sinkers to right-handed batters at a much higher rate than he did in 2011. That’s the opposite sort of trend we discussed last week with Jeff Samardzija, who tends to lean on pitches that run away from lefties or righties. Instead, Garza went after righties by busting them inside, and he ended up with the highest ground ball percentage of his career (51%).

He primarily uses his other fastball, a four-seamer, to get ahead of hitters, and he had better control of it (less balls, more called strikes) than he has at any point of his career. Not coincidentally, when the ball wasn’t put into play on the first pitch, he has recorded an 0-1 count 59 percent of the time while in a Cubs uniform—compared to 52 percent with the Rays.

On the flip side, Garza didn’t help himself at all in the field, where he committed 10 errors (eight throwing) in the last two seasons. He also gave up an abnormally high—for him—rate of home runs per fly ball, at 16 percent. That’s a statistic known to fluctuate more randomly than a pitcher’s talent, so we’d expect his rate next year to “regress” back to his 10 percent career rate. A few more long fly balls caught at the wall would lead to a tangible decrease in ERA once again, particularly with Garza’s other components looking solid.

Will Garza be a long-term piece for the Cubs building effort or one used to acquire more organizational depth? One thing is for certain: As Hoyer said in Spring Training, the Cubs “need more Matt Garzas, not less Matt Garzas.” It’s easy to see why.

1000 Words: Joking Around

Comedians Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis stopped by Wrigley Field on Wednesday, July 18. Prior to throwing out the first pitch, the duo spent some time in the Cubs dugout, talking with Matt Garza, Travis Wood and much of the team.
(Photo by Dave Durochik)

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.

Cubs venture to the South Side

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.

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Starting Pitching

Monday
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.

Tuesday
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.

Wednesday
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.

Bullpen
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.

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