When the Chicago Cubs fired Chili Davis, they looked like an organization in shambles. It turns out, that might not have been the wrong move–at least for these Cubs.
After just one season as the Chicago Cubs hitting coach, Chili Davis barely had time to hang all the pictures in his office. And when I searched for an image of him for this article, there were none in a Cubs uniform. That’s how fast he came and went.
When he arrived, the plan was to help alter the approach of the Cubs’ hitters, and to get away from ‘launch angle.’ It was going to come down to situational hitting. In every situation the Cubs were in during the second half? Well, they weren’t very ‘situational.’ The team failed to score in any form, be it the long ball, situational or other. That lead to Davis being dismissed after just one season.
Enter Anthony Iapoce. Iapoce had worked with the John Mallee, the Cubs previous hitting coach before Davis, in Milwaukee. Mallee, who had stressed exit velocity and launch angle was a stark contrast to Davis. Iapoce believes in both. He understands that there’s a time for situational hitting, and doesn’t think that launch angle takes away from that.
Davis has landed in New York with the Mets, but it seems some players think they could do the job better–joking or not.
“He’s going to try to get you to hit into a double play,” Cano told Conforto.
After Cano’s pep talk, Conforto went right to him on the bench, and right past his hitting coach.
"“When I got back to the bench I told Robinson right in front of Chili (Davis) that he is going to be my hitting coach now,” Conforto said. “I wasn’t thinking about a slam but it feels good to do the job in that situation.” h/t Beth Harris, AP"
Conforto might have said it in jest, but the way it’s gone for Davis in the last year, he has to be wondering.
And then there are the numbers for the Chicago Cubs hitters. Let me preface this by saying these can be interpreted differently. David Bote wasn’t up regularly until later in the year, and Kris Bryant was hurt. But some of the other numbers speak for themselves.
These are just the ones that have met or exceeded last years totals. It doesn’t take into account players like Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo who are well on pace to hit 40 or more for the season if they stay healthy. So apparently, this launch angle is a real thing? Huh, you don’t say.
While the launch angle is a big part of what Iapoce teaches, situational is, as well. And by that, look no further to the opposite field. According to Baseball Savant, the Chicago Cubs as a team are going opposite field 27.2% of the time (MLB Avg. is 25.5.)
But the key guys in the lineup are doing it far more than that. Baez has fone opposite field 34.7% this season. Willson Contreras is right on his heels at 32.7%. And that’s not little bloopers for a single. They’re hitting it to the opposite field with authority.
I never had any ill will towards Davis when he came to Chicago. But I didn’t see a reason to panic and let go of Mallee. The thought of bringing a coach that preached more situational and fewer metrics sounded good.
But that didn’t convert to positive number in the stat sheet. Davis isn’t in Chicago of his own doing. There were rumors that said some players didn’t like his way, and Davis had a hard time ‘connecting with them.‘
There are times when if you don’t mesh well with the players, you aren’t going to be able to get your message across. That was the case for Davis, but he landed on his feet in New York. He better hope Cano isn’t getting any ideas, or he’ll be looking for his fourth job in four years.