Cubs: Cutting down on strikeouts will be a key to success this season

Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cubs struck out last season. A lot. Whether it can be attributed to a lack of offseason is now a moot point. However, in the scope across baseball, they finished with the fourth-worst strikeout rate last year, at 25.7 percent — nearly a four percent increase from 2019. However, there is hope in 2021 as new additions will undoubtedly help reasonably reduce 2020’s number.

According to FanGraphs 2021 projections there is good news for Cubs fans, as the club is anticipated to have the most significant improvement in that category, jumping from 27th to 16th — a rank difference of 11 spots. Only the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds have projected double-digit jumps.

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Cubs: A strange offseason may pay off

By choosing to prioritize certain offseason moves, it seems Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer were more calculated in their decision-making than seen on the surface level. The reality with Kyle Schwarber may have been a difficult one for fans to swallow.

However, the team was never going to give him the kind of money the Washington Nationals did. Instead, the pair opted to sign former Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson to a more team-friendly contract.

Pederson did record a 24.6 percent strikeout rate in 2020. Like many players, Pederson fell prey to the lack of offseason in 2020. At an early point in his career, Pederson fell in line with Schwarber in terms of a ridiculously high amount of strikeouts.

Since 2016, Pederson has worked diligently to cut that number down. In his first three years, Pederson posted a 28.3 percent K-rate. Over the next three years, that number significantly dropped — by about six percent.

Another spot for the Cubs is the second base job as Nico Hoerner can hopefully grab the reins and not let off the gas. He will need to improve significantly in certain areas. Contact rate is not one of them. Despite a lackluster 73 wRC+ over his first two truncated major league seasons, Hoerner’s 18.8 percent strikeout rate is strongly positive. His zone contact rate increased almost five percent from 2019 to 2020.

Cubs newcomer infielder Matt Duffy, who the team signed at the end of 2020, could also provide some strength in that area off the bench. While we should not expect much — Duffy did not play in 2020 — one thing to look toward is his low strikeout rate. He holds a career rate of 16.1 percent. Match that with a 96 wRC+ in his past three seasons, and you have a solid under-the-radar addition.

Next. Can David Bote win the Cubs' second base job?. dark

Thankfully for many superstars, 2020 did not prove fruitful, an outlier to their better halves, including the big three of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez. The team did win the division, and against the better judgment of many against the Cubs this season, they should find that power again. For them to have a shot, it begins at the dish.