Results tagged ‘ Travis Wood ’
(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 Cubs.com 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.
(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.
(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
(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.
Travis Wood relied heavily on his fastballs this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Innings Pitched: 156 (26 G-26 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 4.62 RA, 7.7 H, 3.1 BB, 1.4 HR, 6.9 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.7
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arb, Third Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (90), Two-seam (89), Cutter (87), Slider (80), Change (80), Curve (74)
Travis Wood came a long way in his first year as a Cub, playing himself into a key, middle-of-the-rotation spot in 2013.
Wood was acquired in one of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s first moves with the Cubs organization. The left-hander was part of a three-player package for set-up man Sean Marshall. (Outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes also came to Chicago.) The goals were explicitly stated: Epstein and Hoyer wanted to 1) bolster the rotation’s depth and 2) flip a player who was one year away from free agency for players who would be under team control for several more seasons.
In terms of the latter, Wood won’t be eligible for free agency until 2017 at the earliest, giving the Cubs someone who can hold one of the Nos. 3-5 spots in the rotation. And regarding the pitching depth, Wood actually started the season as an extra man, spending most of April and May in Triple-A to iron out command issues. Manager Dale Sveum said that Wood didn’t just address his walk rate—which improved only marginally from 8.6 percent in 2011 to 8.3 percent this year—he also developed an entirely new way to attack hitters.
“He’s able to pitch on his arm side now, where he always pitched to his glove side, and he’s able to use his back-door cutter now instead of just throwing his fastball cutter inside,” Sveum told Vine Line in July. “It’s opening up the whole inside of the plate. He’d never done that in his life before.”
Let’s again take a closer look with PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card).
Wood is a six-pitch pitcher who leans heavily on his hard stuff (blue), throwing about 75 percent fastballs against both right- and left-handed hitters. But there’s still a significant difference within the hard/soft mix: He throws many more two-seam and cut fastballs against righties, which fade away and run in, respectively. Wood then builds in a change-up to keep batters off balance.
Against lefties, he instead looks to leverage the velocity, location and deception on his four-seam fastball. And when he gets ahead in the count, he goes to his slider, which dives away from a same-sided hitter.
Though Wood’s 4.27 ERA was a shade below average overall, his season suffered from a stretch of three horrible starts (22 ER, 9 HR, 15.2 IP) at the end of July. In his 23 other starts, he had a 3.33 ERA. He’s a true fly ball pitcher, and he experienced a huge jump in home runs per fly ball (from about 6% in 2010-11 to 12% in 2012), largely due to those three games. If he can lower that HR/FB rate once again—through better luck or actual skill—he would already have a great chance of improving his ERA in 2013.
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.
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 New York Mets made their way into town for a three-game set, word spread around the city that elite first base prospect Anthony Rizzo will get his first start in a Cubs uniform Tuesday night. Though expectations are high, Manager Dale Sveum stressed that he didn’t want the young slugger to try to put the team on his back.
For his first big league games, Rizzo will be facing a surprisingly tough Mets club. After losing two of three to the crosstown rival Yankees, Manager Terry Collins’ team sits at a competitive 39-34 and is holding onto second place in the NL East. Prior to the series opener, we preview a few of the key figures in the Mets’ success.
Hitters to Watch:
David Wright continues to crush the ball (.360/.455/.565, 41 RBI) and is a midseason front-runner for the NL MVP Award, but the campaign Duda is putting together is nothing to scoff at. His 11 home runs and 42 RBI lead the team, and he has provided solid protection for Wright in the middle of the order. The 26-year-old’s on-base percentage (.353) is roughly 80 points higher than his batting average, and he comes into Wrigley riding a seven-game hitting streak.
The 24-year-old center fielder has started 55 of 71 games, and his .281 batting average is third-best on the team. Nieuwenhuis has recorded seven home runs, 10 doubles and 25 RBI on the season. The lefty has spent most of the year at the top of the Mets’ order and has 39 runs scored, good for top 25 in the NL. But he does have a tendency to strike out. His 29 percent strikeout rate is fifth-highest in the league.
Pitchers to Watch:
Santana, who will open the series against Cubs lefty Travis Wood, has been a major force since he earned a regular spot in the Twins’ rotation in 2002. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has bounced back in a big way after missing all of 2011 with shoulder issues. His 3.00 ERA is actually a notch below his career mark (3.10), and the Mets are 8-6 in games he’s started. He’s tied for 12th in the NL in strikeouts (84) and his 9.0 K/9 ranks 11th in the National League.
Parnell might be the key to New York’s ‘pen. The hard-throwing righty owns a 3.19 ERA, largely because of his 2.32 BB/9. He also strikes out a respectable batter per inning. Despite blowing three save opportunities, the 27-year-old has 15 holds, second-best among NL relievers. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Parnell twice this series, especially if the Mets have late-inning leads.