Back in 2018, Theo Epstein flat-out said the Chicago Cubs offense was “broken,” and it hasn’t been fixed. It’s no secret that the team has spent years now struggling to hit under numerous hitting coaches and now two different managers indicating management itself shouldn’t completely be blamed for this. Rather, scouts and other teams seem to think the problems are far more mental than they are physical with the team.
In an article from Jesse Rogers, opposing pitchers and scouts shed some light on why the Cubs offense is so atrocious from their perspective and while none of it is exactly surprising, it all reflects a problem with the team’s philosophy at the plate. This team went all-in mentally on an approach that favored power and it seems to have lasting consequences. Now, in trying to get out of this hole they’ve dug, the team seems to be caught in the middle: still looking to shoot the ball to the moon while also trying to stop chasing out of the zone and start making more contact.
The Cubs hitting philosophy has created too many problems the team can’t solve
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The result has been a team that is good at exactly none of those things. Against power pitchers, the team has an OPS of .489 with 68 strikeouts in only 166 plate appearances which is good for around 41percent of the time. Even against pitchers with average power, the Cubs are still being rung up in 25.6 percent of plate appearances, indicating not just an issue with high velocity, but velocity, period. The startling lack of hitting against fastballs still has scouts utterly perplexed as to what’s going on.
The other issue is the chase percentage and the percentage of strikes they’re being thrown. Cubs hitters like Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, David Bote, and Joc Pederson are seeing strikes at well below the league average with Baez and Pederson cratering at only 42 and 42.7 percent, respectively. As for chase percentage, the team has seen a steady rise in swings out of the zone over the years, creating that growing concern to focus on laying off outside pitches. Of course, Baez is the poster child for this problem, but it’s a plague on the entire team as well.
It would be fine if the team only had a few guys that sported this high strikeout, high power style, but everyone in the Cubs lineup has bought into this. What opposing pitchers have noticed is that all Cubs hitters can be attacked in relatively the same way: fastball up and in or anything down and away to get a chase.
Their hitting philosophy has doomed them to be a predictable, one-note offense that has become so concerned with fixing their weaknesses that they’ve abandoned one of their greatest strengths: hitting the fastball.
The fundamentals are all there for these guys to succeed, but their philosophy has dug them a hole that sees them staring down one of the worst offensive starts in MLB history and a potential teardown if things don’t pick up, adding more pressure to the problem. The Cubs will need a miracle to pull off such a substantial philosophy change with this core at this point given how broken this team is.