Results tagged ‘ Scott Baker ’

Samardzija gets Opening Day nod, E-Jax set for home opener


(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty images)

On Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio announced the Cubs rotation for the first week of the regular season. Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will get the nod on Opening Day, April 1, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

“That’s what I signed up for,” Samardzija said. “If you don’t want those expectations for yourself, then you may as well go play somewhere else. That’s just kind of a given. There’s going to be pressure, and there’s going to be a lot riding on what you do.”

Samardzija came into last season just hoping to land a spot in the rotation after a successful 2011 in the bullpen. This year, most see the Shark as a front-of-the-rotation guy and a possible ace. He commands five pitches and was third in the league in average fastball velocity last season. His four-seamer clocked in at 95.9 mph, and his two-seamer averaged 95.4 mph.

He’ll be followed in the first week by righty Edwin Jackson, lefty Travis Wood, righty Scot Feldman and righty Carlos Villanueva.

Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, will get the start in the Cubs home opener April 8 against the division rival Brewers.

Both Matt Garza and offseason acquisition Scott Baker will miss the start of the season recovering from injuries.

Castro back in the lineup, Baker to debut Sunday


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Two-time All-Star Starlin Castro will be back in the lineup for the Cubs Wednesday afternoon as they square off with the Colorado Rockies.

The 22-year-old has been out since Feb. 27 after injuring his hamstring while running the bases. Despite being out two weeks for precautionary reasons, the injury was never deemed serious, and Castro continued to practice. He’s participated in three games so far this spring.

With first baseman Anthony Rizzo out with the Italian squad at the World Baseball Classic (Italy vs. Puerto Rico, 6 p.m. CST), non-roster invitee Edwin Maysonet will get another crack at first. He’s hitting just .130 in 13 games this spring.

Scott Hairston will slide over and play center field, giving prospect Jorge Soler more time in right. The 21-year-old Soler is hitting .304 in 26 plate appearances.

Cubs fans can listen to the game’s free webcast on Edwin Jackson will get the start against the Rockies, who will be sending out lefty Josh Outman. Here’s the full lineup Outman will face Wednesday:

3B Luis Valbuena
2B Darwin Barney
SS Starlin Castro
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Scott Hairston
C Dioner Navarro
RF Jorge Soler
1B Edwin Maysonet
P Edwin Jackson

Cubs Notes: Scott Baker is slated to make his first Spring Training start on Sunday. It will be his first official return to the mound since having Tommy John surgery in April 2012. He went two innings in a minor league game on Tuesday.

Now Playing: Mesa Cubscast, The New Guys

After a busy offseason, the 2013 Cubs came into camp riding a wave of optimism. The team added depth to the rotation, versatility in the outfield and an extra year of experience for the younger players. On Tuesday, Vine Line sat down with some of the new guys to find out why they wanted to come to Chicago and what goals they have set for the season ahead.

Vine Line will be posting videos and content from Fitch Park and HoHoKam Stadium all week long, so keep an eye on the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Spring Training Preview: The Starting Five


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Finally, baseball is back. As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is nearing.

And 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 groups—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give people a clearer picture of what the team could look like when it breaks camp and heads to Chicago.

Below is the starting rotation preview. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on to subscribe to the magazine.

If everyone stays healthy—always a big if—the Cubs will have an abundance of starting pitching for the first time in a while. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija are locks for the rotation, while Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva will battle for the final two spots. Baker, who has a 63-48 career record, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Though he may be ready come Opening Day, the Cubs’ depth allows them to be patient with his return.

Garza’s rehab from the elbow issues that knocked him out for the final two months of 2012 appears to be on schedule, and he’s been adamant that he’ll be ready by April. A healthy Garza could build on his impressive 2011 season, in which he had a career-best 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The Cubs’ surplus of starting pitching makes the idea of parting with Garza in a trade for prospects slightly easier to stomach. That’s certainly a possibility, either in March when he’s proven he’s healthy or at the July trade deadline.

Jackson’s acquisition provides the team with a reliable innings-eater—he’s made at least 31 starts and tossed at least 180 innings in each of the last five seasons—a wildly underappreciated skill. Any manager who’s had to overuse his bullpen, like the Cubs have the past few seasons, will tell you how much he appreciates having a pitcher he can rely on to deliver six quality innings every fifth day.

Feldman and Wood both have the ability to be competent starters, and Villanueva showed flashes of brilliance last season, including an impressive 22.9 percent strikeout rate and 6.7 percent walk rate in 92 innings as a starter. However, he has yet to prove he can deliver those numbers over 160-plus innings.

The real breakout star in the rotation may be Samardzija, whose road to this point has been bumpy. In the span of two seasons, Samardzija has gone from failed prospect, to reliable bullpen arm, to possible future ace, thanks to his dogged work ethic and electric arm. Samardzija will have no innings limit in 2013, so it’s a good bet he’ll take another step forward and become the anchor for a rotation that has the potential to be the team’s strength.

Cubs 2013 ZiPs projections unveiled


(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

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s January issue with Theo Epstein


The start of 2013 ushers in year two of what has been a fairly sizable overhaul of the Cubs’ philosophy. This will be the second season for Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod, Dale Sveum, et al. When the new front office took hold last year, they talked about instituting a “Cubs Way” of playing the game. They codified it, put it in writing and started to implement it at all levels of the organization.

It’s about strong fundamentals, hustle, making good decisions on the field and building through the system with cost-controlled, homegrown, young talent. Of course, a complete philosophical overhaul doesn’t happen overnight.

“I think it takes a while to really take hold,” Epstein said. “You almost need a generation of players to come up through the minor league system, learning the game that way, before you can feel confident that it’s going to be represented day in and day out on the field. But I did see glimpses.”

In the January issue of Vine Line, we sat in on a conversation between Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and season ticket holders that touched on a range of topics, from the overall management philosophy to offseason acquisitions to the optimal way to build a winner. Epstein knows what he’s doing takes time. He also knows there were two teams that shocked the baseball world with fast turnarounds this season in Oakland and Baltimore. He wants to win as quickly as possible, but he’s going to be smart about it. The goal isn’t third place; it’s a World Series title.

The New Year has also brought a few new arms to the starting rotation: right-handers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. Both will put on Cubs pinstripes for the first time this season, and both have something to prove. Baker, a consistent starter who has spent his entire career in Minnesota, is coming off Tommy John surgery. Feldman, who pitched on two World Series teams in Texas, has spent the last few years shuttling back and forth between the Rangers’ rotation and bullpen. In Chicago, he’s firmly penciled in as a starter, a role in which he won 17 games as recently as 2009.

And while everyone else is looking forward this month, we take a look back into Cubs history at the short and fascinating life of the Chicago Whales, a Federal League team that was the first to call Wrigley (or, as they knew it, Weeghman Park) home. The Whales and Cubs have similar DNA—they shared an owner (Charles Weeghman), several players (Joe Tinker, Mordecai Brown, etc.) and one very famous stadium.

To read these stories and more, pick up the January issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at select Chicago-area retailer. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.

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.

Inside the 2013 Cubs: Scott Baker

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Cubs got their offseason started with a value play last week, signing veteran right-hander Scott Baker to a one-year contract with a reported base salary of $5.5 million. Baker spent his entire career with the Twins, who selected him out of Oklahoma State in the second round of the 2003 draft. When healthy, he was often one of Minnesota’s top two or three starters. Various ailments, however, kept him under 200 innings in all but one season, and he missed all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. Still, Baker could be a bargain if he’s able to recover his form.

That’s because few major league pitchers have been able to match Baker’s command of the strike zone. Though he needs another 42 innings to make Baseball-Reference’s leaderboard, Baker’s career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.4 would rank 22nd best all time. His K/BB improved each year from 2008-11 largely because of a strikeout rate that reached its peak of 22 percent in 2011 (MLB average is roughly 18 percent). During that season, he had a career-best 3.15 ERA, a big drop from the 4.49 and 4.37 marks of the prior two seasons. He did it by making the most of a fairly limited arsenal, according to PITCHf/x data tagged by

There are some caveats to Baker, however. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher, who may face some challenges when playing against Wrigley Field’s notorious headwind. (Remember Ted Lilly? The two have identical career GB/FB rates of 0.53.) Baker is comfortable locating his fastball up and has generally done a decent job of limiting home runs, but his margin for error will decrease if his strikeout rate goes down. Theo Epstein acknowledged there is risk to pitchers coming back from elbow surgery, though historical evidence suggests the 31-year-old Baker may be able to regain some of the velocity he lost during the 2011 season.

Epstein also said Baker is on track to be ready for Opening Day, but the front office will monitor his rehab and won’t be concerned if he needs more time. At the very least, Cubs fans can expect a pitcher who will throw strikes, hit his spots and show veteran pitchability in the middle of the rotation.

Cubs agree to terms with RHP Scott Baker

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Cubs and right-handed pitcher Scott Baker have agreed to terms on a one-year deal.

Baker, 31, comes to the Cubs after spending all or part of seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins. A second-round pick in the 2003 draft, Baker has a career 63-48 record with a 4.15 ERA in 163 appearances, all but four as a starter. He’s struck out 770 batters and walked 224 in 958.0 innings and reached 28 or more starts from 2008-10.

Baker last pitched in the majors in 2011, where he went 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA before being sidelined with elbow issues. He had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in April of 2012 and missed the entire season.

Baker, who was the Opening Day starter for the Twins in 2010, departs ranked among the club’s all-time leaders in several categories, including winning percentage (.568, fourth, minimum 100 decisions), starts (11th with 159), wins (11th with 63) and strikeouts (11th with 770).