Cubs

Cubs notes: Castro's back, enough said?

Cubs notes: Castro's back, enough said?

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010
9:45 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Starlin Castro found his name back in Wednesdays lineup, roughly 72 hours after he forgot how many outs there were, the kind of lapse in concentration that has bothered his new manager.

By benching Castro for two games even as that .317 average ranked third in the National League and lent credibility to a Rookie of the Year campaign Mike Quade felt he proved a point and used it as a teaching moment for his 20-year-old shortstop.

Enough said, Quade said. Hes doing what he needs to do.

It wont be a straight line of development for Castro, who committed his 23rd error during the first inning of Wednesdays 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros. Castro let a groundball pop out of his glove and didnt have time to flip to second for the third out. Carlos Lee whos listed at 265 pounds beat the throw to first.

Castros diving catch later robbed Lee of a base hit with two runners on in the fifth, and the shortstop made a nice spin play behind second base an inning later. In between he sprinted into Astros first baseman Brett Wallace and was knocked to the ground trying to hustle for an infield single.

The Cubs decided months ago to let Castro learn on the job and live with his mistakes, hoping for a bigger payoff in the future.

He understands where Im coming from, Quade said. Weve talked at length about his youth. (Its) just a step in the process of growing. Thats the way I look at it. And Im as anxious as anybody to see him play well.

It took Jeff Samardzija 136 days to get back to the big leagues. Between his demotion on April 24 and this weeks round of September call-ups, the Cubs made 19 additions to their pitching staff, almost constant roster shuffling that until Tuesday did not involve their 10 million prospect.

When Samardzija was sent down to Triple-A, the organization took its share of the blame, saying it was unfair to a player whos been pulled between the rotation and the bullpen (though Sean Marshall has made himself an extremely valuable asset by showing that kind of versatility).

Samardzijas development was already slowed by his All-American football career at the University of Notre Dame, but he doesnt care how hes used this month.

Here we go again, Samardzija said. Lets jump on the wheel and spin around.

The Cubs havent finalized their pitching plans for the final 21 games of the season. Casey Coleman will have at least one more audition and start Sunday in Milwaukee. Tom Gorzelanny threw Wednesday, testing his bruised left hand, but its unclear when exactly hell return.

At some point, Samardzija (11-3, 4.37 ERA at Iowa) is expected to get a start with the Cubs before they scatter for the offseason.

It doesnt matter, Samardzija said. I want to pitch and show them what I can do. Its been a wild year-and-a-half, two years. All you can do is learn and improve. (Im) really comfortable with where Im at right now.

Aramis Ramirez, who hasnt played since Sunday, continues to receive treatment for his sore right quadriceps. Quades sense is that Ramirez isnt close to being ready to play third base for an entire game, but the manager hopes to have him available soon as a pinch-hitter.

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.