During Spring Training in Arizona last month, there was a great deal of talk about the Chicago Cubs. After historic World Series championship season, the Cubs started last season like they had a hangover of several months of fun.
With a losing record at the All-Star break, the Cubs ramped up the focus and effort and closed 49-25 and stunned Washington in the NLDS before being mentally and physically exhausted against the L.A. Dodgers and lost in five games.
That bitter taste was supposed to be motivation to get back to the World Series for Chicago and all spring Cubs players swung the bats well and looked ready to embark on an arduous 10-game road trip to start the season.
After scoring eight runs on opening day in Miami, Joe Maddon’s offense looked a lot like last year’s bunch far too often facing a steady diet of non-fastballs.
Cubs’ hitters set a National League record with 58 strikeouts in their first five games of the season. Granted, the record is somewhat flawed in the context they played two extra-inning games which amounted to one more full contest (nine innings). Nevertheless, almost 10 K’s for every nine innings on average suggests new hitting coach Chili Davis message is not getting through yet.
The Cubs have many gifted players who can do special things on the field, but because they are so aggressive, they will go thru streaks where it seems like it’s either an extra-base hit or a whiff.
All the punchout’s have bothered Maddon, but he let most of the young players find their way in the hopes they would adjust. For the most part that has not happened and that is why Davis was brought in.
When asked about what would help his Chicago hitters after being shutout in consecutive games for the first time since last May 26-27, Davis answered “Contact” When pressed to elaborate Davis said this. “We’d like to see a lot of good contact. There’s some guys, you’re not just going to turn them into contact-type hitters. I don’t want them to lose their aggressiveness at the plate. We have too good of hitters for me to panic at all.”
No hitting coach is going to turn a team around with one spring training and five games, but he has to make them understand about situational hitting.
The Cubs have an abysmal .137 average with runners in scoring position and are an ugly 1-for-14 bringing a runner home from third base with less than two outs. That’s by far the worst percentage in baseball for any team with five or more opportunities in that situation.
A lot of odd things happen the first month of the season, thus, it is best not to overreact to anything that goes on. For heavy volume baseball bettors, it is best to dial it back a bit to avoid getting buried early and you are playing catch-up all season.
A more practical approach is to bet on hot teams and against cold clubs the first few weeks of the season. Otherwise, don’t fall victim of guessing when the Cubs will get hot or continue not hitting. It is smart to let them go for now until we all have a better read on them.
Doug Upstone wrote this for ScoresandStats.com