The Chicago Cubs have been an aggressive team at the plate for several years. It’s a bit strange, because it’s not as if the personnel – and coaching staff – hasn’t changed, but since leading the league in walks in 2008, the Cubs have been trending hard in the other direction, including finishing in the bottom three in 2010 and 2011.
So far this year – in an exceedingly small sample size – the Cubs have been about middle of the pack in walks taken. But new manager Dale Sveum knows he’s got a relatively aggressive lineup, and knows, if nothing else, he’s got to make sure his guys understand that they need to be patient, and wait for their pitch.
“It’s one thing to be aggressive, but you don’t want to be swinging at [first] pitches that you can’t hit out of a ballpark,” Sveum said, according to ESPN’s Doug Padilla. “You don’t want to swing at down and away on the black, something you’re going to hit a single on the other way. That’s not what you’re looking for when you’re swinging at the first pitch.”
Sveum isn’t saying a single the other way is a bad thing, but instead is saying that, if his players are going to pull the trigger on the first pitch, it better be the kind of pitch they can really drive. Sveum thinks his guys haven’t done a great job of that this year.
“A lot of times when you’re aggressive early in the count, you have two anxieties,” he said. “One, you don’t like hitting with two strikes. Two, you really think in your mind that’s going to be the best pitch of the at-bat and guys who take it for a strike it kind of ruins the at-bat for them because it’s like, ‘God, I just took the best pitch of the at-bat,’ and they kind of get flustered the rest of the at-bat.
“Sometimes too early in the year when you are aggressive in the early part of the at-bat, you want to do a little too much and you are just swinging at pitches that aren’t quite balls you can drive out of the ballpark. So far early we have done a little bit of that.”
It’s been easy to see – a number of times, Cubs batters have flailed wildly at a first pitch out of the zone, leaving me with the impression that they’d decided, before the pitch, that they were going to swing. It’s one thing to be fooled by a first pitch breaking ball in the zone, at which you swing and miss. It’s another thing to swing at a ball that starts low and off the plate, and finishes even further off the plate. That tells me you just wanted to swing.