The Cubs have lived by the long ball and they’ve also died by it over the last six seasons.
Chicago is looking for a new approach in 2021, one guided by a better approach with two strikes and a more contact-oriented offense. Big bat-to-ball guys like Nico Hoerner will be key, especially with big swing-and-miss presences such as Javier Baez still in the mix offensively.
"“The two-strike hitting already has improved,” second-year skipper David Ross told MLB.com this weekend. “I find myself writing down on my note card, a lot of that. Good two-strike approach. Even when it’s not hits.”"
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With two strikes last season, the Cubs batted .158/.249/.275 as a team. Now, you might suggest that’s due to the limited 60-game sample size. Fair enough. Let’s go back to 2019. That year, Chicago put up a .168/.247/.287. Seeing a pattern here?
Now, it’s not realistic to expect Cubs hitters to win every battle when they’re facing a two-strike count. But if even a few more guys can make those necessary adjustments, this team will put up more runs.
Cubs need more contact in the lineup
Last year, we saw what can happen when an offense built solely on slugging goes cold. The bats went silent in the postseason against Miami. With stars like Baez and Kris Bryant struggling, there was hardly ever any offensive rhythm for Ross’ club.
"“I feel like last year, it was we just never found that real rhythm,” Ross said. “This year these guys are getting off a lot more swings early on and feeling where they’re at, right? Rather than trying to take and time. They’re just coming out swinging and I feel like that’s the best way to find out where your swing’s at and then we get real feedback from that.”"
Ross isn’t wrong. His team has some hot hitters right now. New outfielder Joc Pederson blasted his third home run of the spring on Tuesday, Hoerner has been one of the best bats in the Cactus League early on and Willson Contreras seems to have his eyes set on a third All-Star nod in 2021.
If the Cubs can manufacture more offense and the defense remains strong behind a revamped pitching staff, this group might just have enough to make it back-to-back division titles.