Hitting coach John Mallee looks to change the Cubs’ philosophy


When Mike Brumley was let go, Bill Mueller followed him out the door shortly after. The carousel of the hitting coach was going to spin at least one more time this winter. But the Cubs believe they may have the man to shut that ride down.

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John Mallee is a true instructor at heart. He’s been a part of professional baseball for 20 years, and spends a good portion of his free time teach clinics for kids anywhere from eight to 18-years-old. His goal is to make them better for themselves, not just for a chance at the Majors.

He’s the fourth to hold the job since Theo Epstein arrived in 2011. Different voices, different philosophies. And while there can be some carryover from one coach to the next, Epstein is truly excited about landing Mallee.

"“As long as you end up with some consistency entering the next phase, the competitive phase, guys benefit from a few different perspectives and find their way,” Epstein said after hiring Mallee. “I like where it ended up.” h/t Jesse Rogers, ESPNChicago.com"

The native Chicagoan is aptly qualified as he knows Wrigley Field well. And it doesn’t hurt having last years American League batting champion Jose Altuve on your resume. He went from a .283 to .341 in one season. So could he turnaround some of these young Cubs’ hitters that struggled last year? It’s possible, but it’s all about buying into the philosophy.

Two strikes. Mallee tries to teach the hitters to stay within their strength until they get two strikes. Then it’s time to “pull up”, put the ball in play and not worry about the long ball. The Cubs have more than a few capable home run hitters, but they also found that the strikeout was one of their worst enemies in 2014.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, BABIP was actually .299 overall in the league last year. It only went down to .296 with two strikes. The short version? If the hitter makes contact with two strikes his chances of getting on aren’t much worse than with less than two strikes. It’s up to the hitter to understand he has to shorten up his swing and make contact.

The first name that comes to mind is Javier Baez. Mountains of potential, but a huge hole in his game with strikeouts. Mike Olt as well, but he made some adjustments after being sent down to Triple-A last season and had improved his contact issues. Yet to be seen if it was a permanent fix.

But back to Baez. His swing is one of the quickest and most violent you’ll ever see. I watched him strike out and nearly fall over more than a handful of times last season. That’s where Mallee comes in.

"“If you have the right approach and right mindset, your swing will follow that,” Mallee said of Baez. “Getting him to understand sacrificing speed and power for accuracy when you get to two strikes and there are runners in scoring position and putting the ball in play, you’re going to be very productive.”"

With a young group of hitters in Chicago, and more on the way, Mallee may be the ideal candidate to teach them the “right way”. Power numbers are great. Watching home runs sail out onto Waveland and Sheffield is entertaining. But Wrigley Field plays different from day-to-day, and teaching hitters that sometimes line drives work just as well as the long ball is at the core of Mallee’s teachings.

"“The game is starting to come back to reality a little bit,” Mallee stated. “Players have to understand in April and May in Chicago, we need to bring out the line drives.”"

One thing is certain, Mallee has a wealth of possibilities in Chicago.

"Next: Baez and Alcantara have work to do this spring"