Cubs

Timeline of Zambrano's career

629912.png

Timeline of Zambrano's career

Now that Carlos Zambrano has packed his bags for good, CubsTalk wants to take a look back at the last 14 years. Zambrano was one of the most polarizing players to ever come through the home dugout at Wrigley Field, but he was almost always entertaining.

1997: Signs with Cubs as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela at just 16 years old.

Aug. 20, 2001: Makes MLB debut against the Brewers at Wrigley Field, allowing seven earned runs in four-plus innings.

Sept. 20, 2001: Earns first big-league victory, pitching two-thirds of an inning in relief. He is just 20 years old.

Aug. 22, 2003: Takes no-hitter into the eighth inning against Curt Schilling and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Shea Hillenbrand singles with two outs in the eighth.

2003 postseason: Makes three starts in the Cubs' playoff run. Despite a popular myth, was not the one who convinced Steve Bartman to reach for that fateful foul ball.

July 2004: Voted to his first All-Star game.

July 19, 2004: Ejected after plunking the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds with a pitch following a homer by Scott Rolen. This would not be the last time he was ejected for throwing at batters. (See: August, 2011)

November 2004: Finishes fifth in NL Cy Young voting after posting a 16-8 record with a 2.75 ERA and 188 strikeouts. Also led the league with 20 hit batters.

2005: Records first 200-strikeout season.

2006: Earns another All-Star nod and finishes fifth again in NL Cy Young voting. Led the league with 16 wins, but also with 115 walks. Wins first Silver Slugger Award after hitting six home runs.

2007: Won a career-high 18 games. Led the league again with 101 walks. Finished fifth again in NL Cy Young voting.

June 1, 2007: Punches Michael Barrett in the face during a dugout altercation at Wrigley Field.

Aug. 17, 2007: Inks five-year, 91.5 million extension and is never the same again.

Sept. 14, 2008: Hurls no-hitter against Astros at Miller Park in Milwaukee while Hurricane Ike wages war on half the country. Hurricane Zambrano goes into hibernation until...

May 27, 2009: Ejected after arguing a close play at the plate. Screams at and mocks umpire Mark Carlson, then hurls the ball toward the left-field bleachers, making it all the way to the warning track. Proceeds to enter the dugout and takes remaining aggression out on the Gatorade machine with bat in hand.

March 2010: Declares in spring training he is a changed man and no more behavior issues will result.
June 25, 2010: Blows up on Derrek Lee in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field after a disastrous first inning. The two have to be separated and Z winds up suspended indefinitely by the Cubs.

Late 2010: Goes 8-0 down the stretch with a 1.41 ERA in 11 starts.

February 2011: Announces again in spring training he is "cured" after anger-management therapy.

June 5, 2011: Delivers epic "We stinks" rant after Carlos Marmol blew a save against the Cardinals. Zambrano calls the Cubs a "Triple-A" team.

Aug. 12, 2011: After giving up his fifth homer to the Braves, tries throwing at Chipper Jones. He'S ejected, goes to the locker room, cleans out his locker and talks about retirement.

Sept. 2, 2011: Cubs announce Zambrano will not pitch for them again in 2011. MLBPA files grievance on behalf of Zambrano and settled dispute in the offseason.

Jan. 4, 2012: The greatest day in Cubs history. (Kidding). Zambrano - and 15 million - is traded to the Marlins for Chris Volstad.

Did we leave anything off? Provide your favorite -- and least favorite -- Zambrano moments below.

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.