Cubs

Garza to make Cubs debut vs. Pirates

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Garza to make Cubs debut vs. Pirates

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Posted: 10:22 a.m.

Associated Press

Matt Garza won 15 games last season pitching in arguably baseball's toughest division, so the Chicago Cubs are excited about his potential in the National League.

Garza will make his Cubs debut Sunday when they close a three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chicago (1-1) acquired Garza in trade with Tampa Bay in January, adding the right-hander to a rotation that includes veterans Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs liked that the 27-year-old Garza set a career high in wins while posting a 3.91 ERA last year despite pitching in the difficult AL East.

"We have a guy we feel is in the prime of his career. He's pitched in arguably the toughest division in baseball the last few years," general manager Jim Hendry said. "This is a guy who wanted to pitch against the Yankees and the Red Sox. He wanted the challenge."

Garza, who pitched a no-hitter last year, has playoff experience after winning the ALCS MVP in 2008 when he won two games and helped the Rays advance to the World Series. His new team, which finished fifth in the NL Central in 2010, hasn't been to the World Series since 1945.

"To play baseball at Wrigley Field, I can't express what it meant to me to come here the first day, even driving outside," he told the Cubs' official website. "I could say, 'I'm a Major League Baseball player and I'm too cool for that' - no, I'm not. I was thrilled when I walked up that concourse."

Making his first career start against Pittsburgh, Garza will try to help the Cubs win this series after they bounced back from a season-opening loss by rallying for a 5-3 victory over the Pirates (1-1) on Saturday.

Chicago did all its scoring in the eighth, capped by Blake DeWitt's pinch-hit, two-run, two-out, bases-loaded double. The Cubs had five hits over the first seven innings after recording 11 hits - all singles - in Friday's 6-3 defeat.

"We finally put an inning together. Good for Blake DeWitt, it's a huge hit for him and for us," said Cubs manager Mike Quade, who got his first win as a full-time skipper.

Chicago is hoping it's the first of many wins versus Pittsburgh after going 5-10 against its division rival last year.

The Pirates will try to rebound when they hand the ball to Ross Ohlendorf, who is coming off the worst season of his career.

After going 11-10 in 2009, Ohlendorf struggled to a 1-11 record and a 4.07 ERA last season, although his one win came at home against the Cubs in June. Despite the disappointing year, which included two stints on the disabled list, Ohlendorf had success against Chicago, posting a 1.35 ERA in three starts.

The right-hander didn't have a promising spring, going 0-5 with a 9.82 ERA while giving up five homers and eight walks in 18 1-3 innings.

If Ohlendorf's spring was any indication, Pittsburgh's bullpen could be called into action early. On Saturday, Evan Meek was charged with the loss after giving up all five runs - two earned.

"We had the game and let it get away from us. But you know what? I'll hand the ball to Meek every time, and all those guys in the bullpen. Everybody is going to have bad outings," Saturday's starter Paul Maholm said.
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

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.