The Chicago Cubs decided – by way of a number of colliding events, both planned and unplanned – to shake up their coaching staff in a significant way this offseason.
One of those moves was to replace three-year hitting coach John Mallee with outgoing Boston Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis. Mallee, by most objective measures, had a very successful run with the Cubs, but in Davis, the organization saw an opportunity for an overall upgrade. In particular, the Cubs are looking to improve with two strikes and with their situational hitting, two significant drags on the overall production of the offense. (But if they could improve on those areas without, you know, losing the power and the walks, that’d be great.)
To that end, Theo Epstein spoke with NBC Sports Chicago about the new man at the helm of the Cubs’ bats, and it sounds like Davis was exactly the guy they feel they needed.
“Chili’s well-established as one of the very best hitting coaches in the game. His philosophy and approach happened to fit with what we hope will be the next step for many of our hitters. We talked after the season about hoping to get better with situational hitting, with our two-strike approach, with using the whole field, with having competitive, team-based at-bats.”
Epstein went on to say that Davis’ specialty is focusing up the middle, and having an adjustable approach when an elite pitcher is on his game. That seems like a nod to the postseason, when the Cubs’ bats en masse struggled mightily against good pitching, but I doubt that strictly dictated the move. Instead, an overall need to help Cubs hitters develop a little more flexibility is probably the key thing, and that was where having Davis become available made for a perfect opportunity.
You can read the NBC piece for much more on Davis, and on outgoing hitting coach John Mallee, from Theo Epstein.