We’re not in Mudville anymore, Toto. Pitch clocks. Shift bans. Robo-umps. Mascot-related violence. The game is changing faster now than at any point in the last 20 years.
But one thing that will never change is the need for power hitting. Everyone – with the exception of pitchers – dig the long ball. Even if the devious machinations of Theo Epstein and his merry band reduce the relative importance of power hitting, that importance will never go away.
And so in recent days multiple media outlets have reported that the Chicago Cubs are seeking to add power to the lineup next year. In a way, this isn’t particularly newsworthy; almost every organization could make the same claim. “We feel we really have too much pop in our lineup and are looking to shed some of that over the winter,” is a front office quote you will never read.
Nevertheless, it’s good the front office is focusing on this important aspect of the game. Out of the last six World Series winners (going back to the Cubs in 2016), just one finished with a team ISO outside the top ten. That was your 2019 Washington Nationals, a somewhat flukish winner built around three ridiculously good starting pitchers. If the Cubs are going to win a title in the relatively near future, it probably won’t be that way, so ISO is the way to go. The good news is that the Cubs are already making progress on that front.
(Disclaimers: Small sample size caveats apply. Do not attempt to read this post while consuming alcohol or operating heavy machinery. If it takes you more than three hours to read this post, contact your doctor immediately).
The Cubs entered action Monday night 14th in the majors in ISO, which is … okay! That puts them squarely in the middle of the MLB pack. But more is needed to threaten a deep run in the postseason – not a problem this year but one which the Cubs will want to solve as soon as possible. The good news is that they already seem to be on their way.
That overall ISO rank hides some significant in-season improvement. Before the All-Star Break, the Cubs were 21st in ISO; since then they’ve ranked sixth. The Franimal’s ridiculous power outburst accounts for some of that, but there are other and arguably more durable signs.