Cubs' Struggles with Two Strikes, Fun with Faces, the Legend of Fuld, Ichiro, and Other Bullets

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Cubs’ Struggles with Two Strikes, Fun with Faces, the Legend of Fuld, Ichiro, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

One year ago today, the Chicago Cubs celebrated their World Series title with a parade and rally the likes of which baseball had never seen. I mean that literally: it was the largest gathering of people in U.S. history.

  • Yesterday, I got into Kyle Schwarber’s incongruous strikeout rate and swinging strike rate, and how the deeper issue might simply be an overall ineffectiveness with two strikes. It’s something we know the Cubs, on the whole, need to work on (pretty much everyone outside of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (who were so good that they buoyed the numbers for the rest of the team)), but could you speculate on which Cubs were the worst in 2017 with two strikes? I bet you’d do a pretty good job coming up with most of the guys near the bottom: Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and Addison Russell all tied with a 25 wRC+ after they get to two strikes (league average is 44). But none of those three were the least effective Cub with two strikes.

I’ll give you a moment to think about it …

The featured picture gave it away, didn’t it?

  • Indeed, the answer is Ian Happ, who batted just .152/.214/.252 with a 20 wRC+ once he got to two strikes. His 56.3% strikeout rate in those situations was, gulp, 11th highest in all of baseball. That is to say, everything I wrote yesterday about Kyle Schwarber could probably apply just as clearly to Happ (with the one big exception that Happ’s 16.1% swinging strike rate, unlike Schwarber’s 12.2%, is frighteningly high – it was the 8th highest in baseball last year among all players with at least 400 PAs). Some of that kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Neither Happ nor Schwarber had much professional experience before being tasked with facing big league pitchers and big league scouting/operations departments, all *EXTREMELY* good at identifying the best way to attack a young hitter with two strikes.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • Like Schwarber, I figure a huge part of the offseason for Happ is going to be figuring out and then developing the best approach (that works for him) with two strikes. Good luck to new hitting coach Chili Davis.
  • (And also to get that swinging strike rate down. Boy howdy, that’s high. You don’t want him sacrificing too much power for contact, since that’s going to be such an important part of his game, but incremental improvements to close some holes – or avoid swinging in certain areas altogether – will be a focus.)
  • On a much brighter Ian Happ note, haters gonna say it’s fake:

  • The Marlins elected not to pick up Ichiro Suzuki’s $2 million option for 2018, but the 44-year-old intends to play this coming season. Although he rated poorly defensively in 2017 and hit just .255/.318/.332 (75 wRC+), he was a legitimately good and useful player in 2016. Does he have anything left in the tank as a complementary outfielder and bench bat? Here’s hoping a team out there is willing to find out. And if he’d accept a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, then, hey, I hope it’s with the Cubs.
  • It should be no surprise that Ichiro isn’t inclined to retire, by the way:

  • Hey remember Sam Fuld? The former Cubs prospect and scrappy-guy-super-hero has officially retired and joined the Phillies front office. Fuld, 35, retires after totaling the most legendary 5.0 WAR in baseball history. Fuld was dealt by the Cubs to the Rays as part of the Matt Garza deal before the 2011 season. So you can pretty much thank Fuld for Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm.
  • That’s a nice gesture by the Cubs, but I’d expect some folks to grouse about the style of pizza:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.