Going into the 2015 season, a concern that many Chicago Cubs fans were the amount of strikeouts a lot of players had in their career, and if that trend was going to hurt the team this year. Unfortunately, the strikeouts haven’t slowed down for the Cubs. Even with new hitting coach John Mallee on board to teach a more patient approach, the Cubs are still near the top in strikeouts.
The Chicago Cubs currently stand at second in MLB’s strikeout rankings with 222 in 23 games played – that averages out to 9.65 K’s a game – at that rate the Cubs will finish the season with 1592. That would be 122 more punch outs than last year’s 1477 which led all MLB teams.
Difference with the strikeouts from this year to last year is the power numbers. While the Cubs rank second in strikeouts so far this season, they are tied for 20th in home runs with 18 on the season. If there was one stat that no one was going to be worried about with the Chicago Cubs, it was home runs. Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Montero, and Chris Coghlan are tied for the team lead in homers with three each.
So are the Cubs being more patient at the plate than they should be?
If you ask most managers or baseball scouts, they’ll tell you they don’t mind strikeouts if you can look at the power numbers justifying the aggressive approach. Right now what you’ll find is the Cubs are just swinging at bad pitches. Pitchers are making them chase out of the strike zone and that is something a lot of young hitters have a problem with in general.
Jorge Soler, who leads the league in strikeouts with 38, does chase a lot of bad pitches. After batting Soler in the leadoff spot in Saturday’s game vs. the Brewers, Joe Maddon did so to make Soler not as anxious at the plate and to be more of a table setter for Rizzo and Bryant. Maddon was happy with what he saw from Soler. “He was a lot better. He wasn’t chasing,” Maddon said. “He was a lot more settled at the plate.” *courtesy of Fred Mitchell, chicagotribune.com
I wouldn’t read much into the slow start to Soler’s recent numbers or the slow start for Kris Bryant and his power. Both are young players who are making a huge transition. Both will catch on soon enough and once they get going, they’ll carry this offense with them to some high scoring games.
I like that the Cubs are being picky and seeing more pitches, but what they need to do is when they decide to swing is to make sure that the pitch they are seeing is a good one. If they don’t change that, there is no reason for the pitchers to be forced to throw anything near the zone.
"“(For Soler,) it’s not about changing mechanics. It’s just trying to get him to think differently. When a hitter is not going as good as he can, the worst thing you can do is change his physical mechanics. You want to change his mental mechanics first.” Joe Maddon – Chicago Tribune"
I don’t see this as an ongoing trend with the Cubs for the rest of the season. I expect the strikeouts will be there, but not at the rate that they are coming in now. I do expect the home runs to increase dramatically and soon. The Cubs have just hit into a bit of a slump – every team does it a few times during the year.