Cubs

Cubs won't give Sandberg a September call-up

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Cubs won't give Sandberg a September call-up

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010
9:17 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The legend of Ryne Sandberg seems to grow every time another player is promoted from Triple-A Iowa. Everyone wants to know about the Hall of Famer who throws batting practice and rides buses from one city to the next.

Finally, Jeff Samardzija just had to laugh at a reporters line of questioning on Tuesday afternoon inside the Cubs clubhouse.

No, we carried all his bags for him every time, Samardzija said. He big-leagued us the whole time.

Samardzija was joking and in a pretty good mood after being brought up from Iowa along with reliever Justin Berg, infielder Bobby Scales, and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brad Snyder. To make room for Scales and Snyder on the 40-man roster, the Cubs transferred pitchers John Grabow and Esmailin Caridad to the 60-day disabled list.

Barring injuries, general manager Jim Hendry does not plan to make any more September call-ups. And he gave no thoughts to adding Sandberg to the major-league coaching staff for the final 27 days of the season.

No, no, no, never considered that, Hendry said. Thats not something that would be conducive.

Hendry visited with Sandberg last week during a scouting trip to Albuquerque, N.M., but wouldnt classify their meeting as a formal interview during his search for the next Cubs manager.

Sandberg suddenly showing up for work this week at Wrigley Field where the fans adore him and the Ricketts family used to root for him would be a massive distraction to the team.

And it would be unfair to Mike Quade, the other candidate Hendry publicly identified. Quade, who used to manage in Iowa, learned a great deal during his Septembers in Chicago with Dusty Baker. But he also doesnt want to give this up.

Iowas season ended abruptly on Monday with a 7-6 loss to the Memphis Redbirds in Des Moines. At 82-62, Iowa finished tied for first in its division, but Memphis won the tiebreaker and advanced to the playoffs.

Even if the Cubs dont hire Sandberg the Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year in 2010 his work wont go unnoticed by other organizations.

He never aired us out or (anything) like that, Scales said. I dont think he really had to. We played so well all year long that he just had a steady hand on the team (and) a good pulse on the clubhouse.

For his part, Quade hasnt been paralyzed by decisions, or overwhelmed by the public nature of his job. On the same day Iowa was eliminated from playoff contention, Quade benched Starlin Castro (and did so again Tuesday night).

The manager said he might challenge a veteran, and wont necessarily confront young players the same way.

Some of (Castros) lapses of concentration, Quade said, just (have) youth written all over it. You discipline your six-year-old different than you discipline your 17-year-old. Its case-by-case.

In sitting the 20-year-old shortstop for at least two games, it didnt sound like Quade was acting alone, though he wont be on the phone constantly asking permission.

(Jims) given me leeway to do what I want, Quade said. But I think any time you do something like thisits just not in my nature to do it and not talk to Jim or (assistant general manager Randy Bush) or my staff and say, Look, this is what Im thinking.

I get feedback from all over the place. But Ive been real happy because Jims given me the opportunity and said, Just do it. So in these situations Im kind of doing what I want.

Building consensus will be the responsibility of whoever manages the Cubs in 2011. Its not like hell enjoy the autonomy Bill Belichick does with the New England Patriots, or even the level of influence Lou Piniella used to wield earlier in his career.

Itll be about teaching, reading moods and developing relationships, or what worked for Sandberg during the fourth season of his apprenticeship.

It wasnt anything crazy, Scales said. He knew his team. He knew his guys. And its managing it doesnt matter what it is. Whether youre managing a team or a business, you got to know your personnel, and he did. (He) had a great handle on us all year.

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?

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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.