Cubs

Numbers Game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

Numbers Game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

Out with the old, in with the new.

The numbers 1908, 1945 and 1969 are now — more or less — ancient history for Cubs nation.

Now, Cubs fans get to memorize a new list of numbers and random statistics.

CSN Chicago stats coordinator Chris Kamka and Cubs reporter Tony Andracki compiled some interesting historical nuggets about the Cubs’ World Series championship over the Cleveland Indians:

— Dexter Fowler: first leadoff home run in a Game 7 in World Series history.  Appropriately, it tied for the franchise lead in postseason home runs with three others. The top four comprise the 1-2-3-4 spots in the Game 7 lineup (Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo). Fowler also joins Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle as the only center fielders to homer in a Game 7.

— David Ross: oldest catcher in World Series history to hit Home Run (39 years, 228 days) — and he did it in the final game of his Major League career.  In fact, he's the oldest player to homer in a World Series game with that game as the last of a career. Who previously held that distinction? Former Cub Shawon Dunston, whose final game was Game 6 of the 2002 World Series with the Giants. The previous oldest person to homer in a World Series Game 7 was Willie Stargell, who led the Pittsburgh Pirates to a championship in 1979. Those Pirates were also the last team to rally back from a 3-1 deficit while winning both games on the road until the Cubs just accomplished that feat again.

— During the course of Games 6 & 7, two Cubs became the second-youngest in World Series history behind Mantle to do something special. In Game 6 Addison Russell became second to only Mantle as youngest to hit a World Series grand slam. In Game 7, Javier Baez became second to only Mantle as youngest to hit a Game 7 home run.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

— Cubs are the third team in Major League history (following the 1950 Phillies in Game 3 and 1978 Dodgers in Game 3) to use three catchers in a World Series game. Of course, the Cubs are the first to have all three of those catchers record an RBI.

— Schwarber was the first non-pitcher in World Series history to collect a hit without getting a hit during the regular season. He had seven hits in the 2016 World Series.

— This Cubs team is the first team to win a World Series despite suffering four postseason shutout losses along the way. The 1981 Dodgers had previously been the only team to suffer as many as three. They’re the first team since the 1960 Pirates to suffer two Word Series shutouts and still win the series.

— Barack Obama joins Teddy Roosevelt as only US presidents to be in office for a Cubs World Series championship. Obama attains this feat just days before the 2016 election.

— Theo Epstein ended the Red Sox 86-year World Series drought. Then, he ended the Cubs 108-year World Series drought. And yet, he's 219 days younger than Bartolo Colon, an active pitcher.

— Kyle Hendricks became the first player since 1987 to pick-off a runner in a World Series Game 7 and the fifth overall.

— Addison Russell's nine RBI are the most ever by a Cubs player in the World Series.

— This is the first time since he became a full-time reliever in 2012 that Andrew Miller has allowed as many as four hits in an appearance.

More on the World Series victory

--Joy to the World: Cubs finally end 108-year Series drought

--Finally: The Cubs are World Series champs

--The wait –and the weight- is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

--Barack Obama congratulates Cubs World Series championship

--Famous Cubs fans celebrate World Series title on Twitter

--Ben Zobrist becomes first Cub ever to win World Series MVP

--Numbers game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

--Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was ‘divine intervention’ for Cubs

​--Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

--Ben Zobrist delivers exactly what the Cubs expected with massive World Series

--‘Dreams come true’: Bill Murray reacts to Cubs winning the World Series

--Big surprise: Kyle Schwarber plays hero again for Cubs in World Series Game 7

- Ryne Sandberg: World Series ‘made it able for me to live in the present’

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.