As the players reassemble at the 2019 Chicago Cubs convention, the players have expressed their positive outlooks at their new coaching staff.
After the Chicago Cubs were eliminated in the NL Wild Card game, Theo Epstein ultimately decided to part ways with hitting coach Chili Davis. A bit later, pitching coach Jim Hickey stepped down from his post. Now Anthony Iapoce takes the reigns as hitting coach, and Tommy Hottovy was promoted to pitching coach as well as a few other additions to the staff like former Cub Chris Denorfia and Mark Loretta.
Both Davis and Hickey only lasted one year, and while Hickey leaving was a bit of a surprise, the writing was on the wall for Davis. At the Cubs convention, Kris Bryant told The Athletic‘s Sahadev Sharma that while he thought highly of Davis as a person (despite a rumor that Bryant and Anthony Rizzo urged Epstein to fire him), the philosophies did not match. Davis was simply not a good fit in Chicago.
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Moving forward, there seems to be a lot of early optimism from several players regarding the new staff. One of the frustrating things about 2018 was the power drops in hitters and inconsistency of the starting rotation. Hopefully, a new coaching staff that seems more comfortable to the players can help improve play for 2019.
Praising Iapoce and Hottovy.
Familiarity with Hottovy has guys like Kyle Hendricks excited. Hottovy has been in the Cubs organization since 2015 and is getting his first shot as a head MLB pitching coach. Hendricks spoke on 670 the Score a week ago, talking very highly of his new pitching coach.
“He’s [Hottovy] on your team and he’s just trying to make you better. He’s really good with game planning stuff, pitch sequencing. But he’s also good at breaking down video and looking at mechanical stuff — Just having someone that we know, who has been around and that we can trust.”
Bryant followed his Davis comments to Sharma talking highly of Iapoce.
“I love him [Iapoce]. Really, really, really excited about ‘Poc.’ There’s just something about him. There’s a good energy. You get to know him and he’s one of the most positive guys I’ve been around. He’s someone you want in the clubhouse.”
“I’m really excited. I got a chance to work with ‘Poc’ when I got drafted in 15′ [when] he was the minor league coordinator — Our assistant Terrmel Sledge, he was my first professional hitting coach.”
What to expect.
One could read these quotes and simply say that every player is going to talk about how “great” their coach is. Would they criticize or doubt their coaches in public? No of course not. However, the context of the interviews are where the value comes in.
It’s more than “Oh yeah he’s a great guy,” they identify the coaches strengths and hammer on the fact they are familiar with each other. Pitchers have worked with Hottovy the past few years and when Iapoce was the MiLB hitting coordinator for the Cubs, he worked with many of the young core as Happ pointed out. The disconnect between a guy like Davis, an outsider who had a completely different philosophy than the team was built upon, was obvious. These coaches and players understand each other and know what their philosophies and approaches are.
This has been a very frustrating offseason for Chicago Cubs fans with the lack of moves. If there is a big plus to look at this year, it is the additions to the coaching staff. If Iapoce does his job effectively, the Cubs returning to their slugging form and seeing guys like Happ reaching his potential will be huge.