Why are the groundball-heavy Cubs pitchers giving up the long ball?

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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As Paul Newman said in The Magnificent Seven, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” The Chicago Cubs brought in a number of groundball pitchers to go along with one of the best, Kyle Hendricks, and invited them to serve up worm-burners to a smothering infield defense.

Instead, the Cubs have surrendered 95 homers, tied for the most in the majors. Their groundball rate entering Tuesday’s loss to the Pirates was … OK – at 43.6 percent it’s 17th in the majors, just a hair better than the MLB average. But that isn’t probably where Jed Hoyer and David Ross wanted to see it. So what went wrong?

Cubs: Injuries have ravaged the rotation so far in 2022

Three-fifths of the Cubs notional starting rotation is on the injured list, and Kyle Hendricks has turned into a flyball machine (more on him in a minute). Only Justin Steele, who went into spring training competing for the fifth slot, has been both durable and effective.

New acquisitions Wade Miley and Drew Smyly have impressed when they’ve been able to take the mound. Miley’s performances have gone to plan: he’s kept the ball on the ground and in the yard. Smyly has struggled with the home run so far, but he’s turned himself into a heavy groundball pitcher by refining his excellent curve. Assuming he comes back healthy, there’s reason to believe his gopher totals will come down.

Marcus Stroman was uncharacteristically flyball happy before he went on the IL with a shoulder issue. If that can be remedied, perhaps he’ll return to the high gravity outcomes typical of his career.