It’s the time Chicago Cubs move on from Tommy Hottovy as pitching coach
It’s officially firing season across Major League Baseball and the Chicago Cubs are in the mood. We’ve already seen the departure of hitting coach Anthony Iapoce, but as Jed Hoyer said in regards to the deadline, there’s “no point in going halfway.” If Iapoce is done in Chicago, Tommy Hottovy needs to join him after how disastrous the pitching staff was this year.
Now, to preface, it’s not right to completely blame him for the failure of the arms this year. He wasn’t given a ton to work with after losing Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana while being asked to make do with the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies and Trevor Williams. The bullpen was also full of a lot of reclamation pieces looking to find their footing in the big leagues.
There have also been a few surprise success stories throughout the season, like Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera who became two of the most dominant relievers in the National League. Even so, massive regression to some of the Cubs’ key arms and a lack of development signal Hottovy is no the guy for the job.
Tommy Hottovy has led the Chicago Cubs pitching staff to regression
Under Hottovy, the Cubs pitching staff has failed to take any meaningful steps forward. The prime example is Adbert Alzolay, formerly one of the team’s top prospects and a guy who initially looked poised to stick in the rotation after a breakout 2020 performance. Instead, it was another year that really ended with regression as his ERA from June onwards as a starter never dropped below 5.00. Mostly, it’s been a complete failure to make Alzolay remotely playable against lefties with the OPS against jumping from .556 to .924 when he faces opponents from the left side.
Kyle Hendricks and Davies suffered the most this year. Despite being two of the more effective finesse pitchers in the game, both had considerable trouble locating anything this year. Davies’ walk rate consistently ranked in the upper percentiles of pitchers. Since his first full season in the league, he hung around 2.5 walks per nine, but 2021 saw it balloon to 4.6. It also doesn’t help that he had the lowest first-pitch strike percentage of his career. As a result, he rarely pitched deep into games.
Hendricks, meanwhile, lost his ability to strike out batters and limit power. The most damning number is the barrel rate which went up to 8.4 percent. His previous high was 5.7. Much like Davies, there was a much higher swing percentage on meatball pitches, indicating a lack of deception and execution that allowed both pitchers to get away with the occasional bad miss in the zone. The rate of these bad pitches wasn’t necessarily higher, but they were punished frequently relative to past seasons.
The failure to get more out of guys that have shown the ability to be key contributors really indicates Hottovy isn’t getting the job done. For all those pitchers the team’s Pitch Lab seems to have helped, our bigger rotation pieces never seemed to make the necessary adjustments. Development at the big league level just seems to freeze under Hottovy and the Cubs need to start fresh to move forward.