Cubs

Coleman looks to end season on a high note

473861.jpg

Coleman looks to end season on a high note

Monday, Sept 26, 2011
Posted: 10:59 a.m.

Associated Press

After a tremendous 2010, much was expected out of the San Diego Padres' Mat Latos heading into this season.

He finally seems to be living up to his potential.

Latos looks to continue his impressive second half when he takes the mound against the visiting Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.

Latos (8-14, 3.60 ERA) finished 10th in the NL with a 2.92 ERA last year and held teams to a .217 average - the fifth-best mark in the league. A strained right shoulder was largely to blame for his slow start this season, but he's impressed since the All-Star break, yielding three runs or fewer in all but one of his 13 outings.

The hard-throwing right-hander was at his best during Tuesday's 2-1 victory at Colorado, striking out a season-high nine while coming within an out of his second career shutout.

"I wanted him to have it," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official website. "He's getting to the point where those things mean a lot. He's pitched good in the second half. He's done his job. He had the fastball, slider and curveball working. The breaking balls were good."

Latos, 1-2 with a 4.96 ERA in three career starts in this series, won't have to worry about facing Aramis Ramirez, who is 4 for 8 with two doubles against him. Ramirez has missed the previous four games with a strained right quad and isn't expected back until Tuesday at the earliest.

The Cubs, 2-2 during Ramirez's absence, wasted a solid effort from Randy Wells in Sunday's 3-2 defeat. Wells went all eight innings while Chicago (70-89) scored fewer than three runs for the seventh time in 12 games.

Starlin Castro went 1 for 4, extending his streak of reaching base to a career-high 37 consecutive games. The 21-year-old shortstop is essentially a lock to become the youngest player ever to lead the NL in hits - his 203 are 12 more than the Dodgers' Matt Kemp.

The Padres (69-90), meanwhile, failed to get much going against NL Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, falling 6-2. The top six hitters in the lineup mustered only three singles in 22 at-bats.

San Diego could have an easier time at the plate against Casey Coleman (3-8, 6.64), who takes the mound for Chicago. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA over his last four road outings, during which opponents are batting .353 against him.

Coleman, though, is coming off his first win in nine starts, yielding one run and two hits over six innings of last Monday's 5-2 victory over Milwaukee.

"It's been a learning year for me, have a good outing and I would get too comfortable sometimes and the next outing three innings and you're out of the game," Coleman said. "So I was taking it inning by inning, out by out, and they played good defense behind me and that's the way it's got to be."

In his only career appearance in this series, Coleman gave up three runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-1 loss Aug. 18, 2010.

The Cubs, who took two of three from San Diego when the teams met in April, have won four of five at Petco while outscoring the Padres 14-6.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

ricky_gutierrez_kamka.jpg
AP

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.