In an offseason with many changes expected, the Chicago Cubs front office needs to focus on adding contact to the lineup and velocity to the staff.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has made it known that big changes are coming. He has openly said the Chicago Cubs need to reassess the way it develops players and what they see as key metrics.
It’s no secret the Cubs need to start advancing with the times and embrace some of the new ideas and technologies that teams are using for player development. Two of the big areas that the team have struggled in are contact and velocity. Addressing these shortcomings are crucial this winter and should be the main focus of Epstein and his front office.
Starting with batting, the Cubs sported a contact rate of 73.3 percent, good for 22nd in all of baseball. That means more than a quarter of the time, the offense isn’t putting the ball into play. Pair this number with 1,460 team strikeouts (12th-most in MLB) and something needs correction.
It seems at times that the Cubs are very hit or miss, no pun intended, and these numbers help tell that story. There has been too much inconsistency on this offense not only this past year, but over the past few, and it has finally caught up to them.
If Epstein is serious about making some big changes this off-season, looking to add a contact hitter would be a step in the right direction. They don’t have to look far for their guy either. Nicholas Castellanos put up a 77.8 percent contact rate since being traded to the Cubs, along with his .321 average and 1.002 OPS. He was the anchor of this offense, and he brings a breath of fresh air into this clubhouse and needs to be re-signed.
Along with fixing the offense, the pitching needs correction as well. The Cubs have a lot of ‘placement’ pitchers, meaning they succeed by hitting their locations and playing chess. Seemingly so, the velocity isn’t there.
In terms of velocity, the Cubs pitching ranks 28th in baseball at 92.6 MPH. The team’s hardest thrower is Craig Kimbrel, who’s fastball ranks 64th in baseball in terms of average speed. The next is Tyler Chatwood who ranks 75th and Rowan Wick at 90th.
With the year Kimbrel had and the lack of usage from Chatwood, it’s disheartening to see these are the Cubs two hardest throwers. While velocity certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all, it has to come from somewhere.
With the way the game is trending, having power creates such an advantage and the Cubs don’t have that with their more old-school approach. Adding a few pitchers with high velocities will help give the team a much more diverse pitching staff, and help a key area of weakness. If Epstein wants change, this is another place of emphasis.
One huge free agent the Cubs should look to pursue is Gerrit Cole. The starter fits two huge needs for this team. He is known for his velocity and is an elite starting pitcher. We saw Cole touch triple digits in the eighth inning of the ALDS on Saturday night. The price tag is going to be staggering but he is worth making a move for.
The Cubs have one of the most important off-seasons in recent memory coming up. The talent is there, but there are a few key metrics that need attention. Adding contact and velocity will go a long way to increase the consistency on this team. With these needs addressed, I don’t see why the Cubs can’t contend for a World Series in 2020.