As Spring Training draws near, there is just one focus all the Chicago Cubs players and management are working towards. Offensive production.
It’s no big secret that as hard as the Chicago Cubs played last year with winning 95 games, their downfall was a lack of offensive production when they needed it most. I almost can’t remember what the focus of last year was other than make the playoffs and win the series. This season, the focus will undeniably be offensive production.
The Cubs want to not only put up runs more than anything else, but they also want to put up hoards of runs. Think of an explosion of runs or going through the lineup twice or anything that equals offensive production and you’ll be in the same frame of mind as Joe Maddon and Cubs management. So what does success look like in this endeavor?
Robert Kuenster of Forbes Sportsmoney laid out what the Cubs need to overcome.
"In the 164 games, including postseason play, during the 2018 season, the Cubs offense was shutout 11 times, limited to only one run scored on 29 occasions, only two runs in 16 games and three runs in 21 contests. In total, they scored three or fewer runs in 77 games."
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So the benchmark for offensive production is to score more than three runs in 77 games, but I believe the Cubs are going to do much better due to the atmosphere of this offseason. Theo Epstein, President of Cubs baseball operations, was pretty clear at the end of the season last year.
He and the Cubs owners all thought the Cubs had the right formula (players) but weren’t executing the offensive part of the game. Epstein and Maddon saw a lot of zeros on scoreboards last season and that reminded them of the zeros at the end of some of their big name salaries when the season ended.
Now look at the offseason and the apparent mentality of not going after big-name players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado where the Cubs might gain a superior bat but blow what little money they do have. The conscious effort seemed to be – save – don’t spend. And if you spend – spend wisely.
The Cubs did spend wisely and instead of going after one superstar and spending a load, they bought three pitchers (Cole Hamels, Kendall Graveman, Brad Brach) added the Rangers old hitting coach, Anthony Iapoce and spent frugally signing veteran Daniel Descalso at $1.5 million for 2019, and then $2.5 million in 2020. That’s not big money for a .238 hitter in 2018 who pounded 13 homers to go along with 57 RBIs. Don’t fool yourself, playing RBI hitters is one of the easiest ways to ignite the scoreboard.
My worry, like many Cubs fans, is that as we start turning out big run games, that some other part of the machine will falter; like pitching or defense. With the Cubs core becoming even closer going into another season; I’m willing to risk it. Give us the offensive explosion and we promise not to complain about the rest of the game… much.