Chicago Cubs: With new extra inning rule, team needs to improve splits
The Chicago Cubs will have to do better in certain situations this year with the new extra-inning rule
This 60-game season will be so different in many ways, one of which being the new rule that will put a runner on second base to start extra innings. I’m undecided on whether I like it. On the one hand, it changes the makeup of the game.
Yet, on the other hand, it puts more of an emphasis on fundamental baseball, which may be welcome to some fans with the elimination of the designated hitter. Bunting, situational hitting, good baserunning, and fielding will become more important. I’ll have to see it in action to make a final determination.
In any case, whether you like it or not, teams are going to have to figure out how to use the rule to their advantage. For the Chicago Cubs, there are some areas the team will need to improve on in order to be successful in these close extra-inning games.
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First, we’ll look at the pitching. Last year, with a runner on second and nobody out, Cubs pitchers allowed a staggering .344 batting average and a .951 OPS. Obviously, that will need to be improved. Also, the team allowed a .925 OPS in extra innings in 2019, so that will need to be improved as well.
Getting strikeouts in extra innings will become more important, to prevent opposing teams from moving runners over and driving them in during extra innings. Though Craig Kimbrel was terrible in 2019, he still was striking batters out at a high rate. Brad Wieck, Rowan Wick, and Alec Mills are among the Cubs pitchers with the highest strikeout rates, so David Ross will want to manage close games to make sure he has one or two of them available for extras.
The offense has some areas to improve on as well. Last year, with a runner on second and nobody out, the team batted just .211 with a .716 OPS. Perhaps even more alarming, they didn’t have a single sacrifice hit in such situations. The Cubs also grounded into 127 double plays, which they’ll have to avoid if teams decide to walk the Cubs’ leadoff hitter.
Baserunning also needs to be cleaned up. Last year, the team was thrown out on the bases 64 times, more than any other team in the league. They also had the third-worst stolen base percentage in the league, so though the team doesn’t have many fast runners, if they want to try to steal third, they’ll have to get better too.
The new spring training could be a great opportunity for a speedy player who wasn’t previously on the radar to grab a roster spot. Ross will want to be on the lookout for that as the team prepares for the shortened season.
The Cubs have a lot of things to improve on to be more successful in extra-inning games. Last year, they already weren’t good in the close ones: They were 4-9 in extras and 19-27 in one-run games. Let’s hope the team is better, on the mound and at the plate, in important situations this year.