Cubs

The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

263305.jpg

The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010
7:27 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

This week Bud Selig spoke with Tyler Colvin as the Cubs outfielder rested at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, recovering from the wound left in his chest by a shattered piece of a maple bat.

It remains to be seen whether all the headlines generated by Colvins freak injury will result in significant change. But the commissioner defended baseballs safety record on Friday at Wrigley Field, saying the industry has reduced broken bats by 50 percent across the past 20 years.

Every time a bat cracks, Selig said, its sent to Major League Baseball headquarters in New York, and then forwarded to researchers retained at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin to study the issue.

You watch something like the Tyler Colvin incident (and) it scares you, but were making progress, Selig said. Our experts think we may have some solutions, so hopefully this offseason we can really finish solving the problem. But progress has been made. We just need to do more.

Selig deflected part of the responsibility to the Major League Baseball Players Association, whose members like to use maple bats and figure to make it a negotiating point once the collective-bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season.

Selig pushed several items like expanding the playoff field to his offseason agenda during Fridays session with reporters that lasted nearly 13 minutes inside Wrigley Fields press box dining room.

(Im) the guy who brought (in) the wild card and took a lot of abuse, Selig said. Two or three years ago we had a special committee (and) I really thought we were going to increase it then. (But) the more we talked about it, the less desirable it became for a lot of reasons. However, this winter, its time to revisit that and we will.

The commissioner remains intrigued by the concept of expanded instant replay, but come October you shouldnt expect to see radical changes for the postseason. Hes brought it up for review, but is concerned about the pace of the game.

I know that some (in the media) would like us to do it for the playoffs, but if were going to do anything, were going to do it permanently, Selig said. If you play all year 162 games (in) six months you ought to play by the same rules when you get to the playoffs. But well take a look at it again. Im not averse (to it).

On Friday Selig toured Wrigley Field which he first visited as a kid in 1944 with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and he later dodged a question about the 2014 All-Star Game.

The Cubs have lobbied the commissioners office for the event which is expected to go to an American League city andor a new facility as a way to commemorate the stadiums 100th anniversary.

They didnt put you up to asking me that, did they? Selig said. There are a lot of people begging for All-Star Games.

Wrigley Field will pass the three-million mark in attendance on Saturday, but the vast stretches of empty seats have been noticeable this season.

Selig recognizes this, but projects that 73-plus million fans will go to a game in 2010. The former Milwaukee Brewers owner remembers when the average attendance for a franchise was around one million in the 1970s.

Look, here we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Selig said. I could bring a hundred economists and nobody (would disagree). This year the average team will draw 2.4 to 2.5 (million) with every game on television.

Overall were doing remarkably well. The game has never been stronger than it is today.

This season Selig points to the on-field success experienced by smaller-market contenders like Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Texas, Cincinnati and San Diego as evidence of the industrys health.

The safety of fans and players is one piece to a giant puzzle. Colvins rookie year is over, and hes said to be in decent shape. For Selig and his partners, the issue wont go away once Colvins at full strength.

With Tyler it was such a scary thing, but its not shocking because thats how bats are these days. You see (bats flying) all the time, Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny said. We got a guy with a punctured lung at home right now. Its just a matter of time, so hopefully something can be done about that. Its frightening.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

chavez_kamka_story.jpg
USA TODAY

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

On July 15, Brandon Morrow recorded his 22nd save of the season with a scoreless inning in San Diego. It wound up being the last time he pitched in a game for the Cubs in 2018. 

Four days later, during the All-Star break, the Cubs made a move to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Jesse Chavez from the Rangers in exchange for minor league hurler Tyler Thomas. It wasn’t even the biggest trade they’d make with the Rangers that month – a little over a week later they dealt for Cole Hamels. 

Despite pitching nearly half the innings, Chavez was almost as valuable as Hamels.

2018 with Cubs IP fWAR
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.1
Cole Hamels 76.1 1.5

Chavez made his Cubs debut on July 21; from July 21 through the end of the season, 187 pitchers tossed at least 30 innings. 185 of them had a higher ERA than Chavez, while 184 of them allowed more baserunners per 9 innings.

Best ERA, July 21-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP ERA
Blake Treinen 32.1 0.56
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.15
Blake Snell 61.2 1.17
Trevor Bauer 35.0 1.29
Trevor Williams 71.2 1.38
Robert Stock 36.0 1.50

Fewest baserunners per 9 innings, July 32-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP BR/9 IP
Blake Treinen 32.1 5.85
Blake Snell 61.2 7.15
Jesse Chavez 39.0 7.15
Jacob deGrom 93.2 7.49
Scott Oberg 30.2 7.63
Josh Hader 33.1 7.83

But how did Chavez transform into one of Joe Maddon’s best bullpen arms down the stretch?  According to Chavez, his own transformation started on Mother’s Day.

Chavez entered a game in Houston with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen appearances, but pitched three innings with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. 

Chavez points to a change in arm slot which resulted in better consistency and a slight jump in velocity. A glance at his release point charts show that consistency, and he added roughly one mile an hour to his fastball.

"It's kept me more consistent in the zone," Chavez said. "Things have been sharper, velocity has been a lot sharper. I was huffing and puffing trying to get a 92 (mph fastball) out there and it wasn't coming.

"Next thing you know, I dropped it and it's right there, and I'm like, 'something's wrong here.' But I just took it and ran with it."

Jesse Chavez 2018 four-seam fastball velocity

  Average Max
Prior to May 13 92.6 mph 94.6 mph
May 13 on 93.6 mph 95.7 mph

Can Chavez be valuable in 2019?  The 35-year old reliever posted the best ERA (2.55), WHIP (1.059) and walk rate (4.5% - nearly two percent better than his previous best) in 2018, and he continued to get better as the season went on. 

He’s a former starter who can pitch multiple innings if needed, and that’s a valuable thing - especially for a manager like Joe Maddon, who uses his pitchers in a variety of ways. It’s unlikely he’ll have a second consecutive career year.

But he’ll likely be well worth the price tag; he only made $1 million in 2018, and even with a slight raise he should be very affordable. There’s definitely room in Maddon’s bullpen for a pitcher like Chavez.