Adding Another Offensive Tool to the Tool Belt, Hot for Hottovy, and Other Bullets

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Adding Another Offensive Tool to the Tool Belt, Hot for Hottovy, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

So, March. Pretty Mad, huh? How about that Madness? It gets pretty, uh, Mad, amirite? SPORTS!

  • So, I saw this tease – which is completely accurate, by the way – and I thought … uh, is hitting home runs and driving the ball bad? Not like the Cubs did *enough* of that last year, so what the heck is up:

  • Actually, what Maddon is saying is not much more than something we’ve heard before and agree with: you don’t want to SOLELY be a team that is all about homers and driving the ball, if that comes at the expense of ALSO being able to sometimes (think two strikes, runner on third, one out) just being able to put the ball in play. Situational hitting – or “opportunity” hitting, as the Cubs are calling it now – has been a thorn in the Cubs’ side the last couple years, so I get what Maddon is saying. It’s adding a tool to the tool belt, not replacing anything.
  • … but I’ll excuse anyone who gets nervous when they see pretty much anything talking about hitting philosophy after the Maddon-led and Chili Davis-implemented attempt to sacrifice power for contact more generally. That was a predictable disaster – launch angle is not a fad and all that – so, yeah, let’s go back to 2016, which is what Maddon said in the piece. The Cubs’ new hitting coach, Anthony Iapoce, you’ll recall, was instrumental in the minor league development of many of the hitters that made up that 2016 club, and that the team will be relying on this year. So, you know, go get ’em, my dude.
  • (Worth pointing out that, last year, the Cubs posted a terrible 88 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, but that was mostly because their power absolutely vanished in those situations, not because they were flailing away wildly – the team’s 22.6% strikeout rate in those situations was middle of the pack in the NL, but their .131 ISO was better only than the Giants and Marlins. Soooo … yeah. I’ll just reserve judgment on all this stuff until it actually plays out, because the theory behind it is fine.)
  • Speaking of new coaches who are actually just old friends, things are going as well as anyone could have hoped in the transition from Tommy Hottovy as Run Prevention Coordinator to Pitching Coach:

  • If there is a fundamental breakdown on the pitching side this year, it absolutely will not be because of terrible communication between the coaching staff, the analytics group, and the players. The Cubs really do have the right people in place to make that all work. (And that includes a veteran like Jon Lester, who feigns crusty quite frequently, but he knows he can get an edge from the data and video, and knows he can also help younger pitchers get on board with that stuff.)
  • As for Maddon, the front office’s interest in seeing him be more actively engaged with the instruction this year has certainly been borne out. Indeed, he’s been specifically involved in the situational/opportunity hitting instruction. “Him taking over the situational hitting has been great for everybody,” Epstein told 670 the Score. “Players have really enjoyed having him engaged that intensely in something and being that hands on. Teaching situational hitting is something that at times can get overlooked. It is hard for the hitting coach to get all of this in, because it is a selfless activity. This is about sacrificing your numbers for the greater good of the team. When you have the manager that involved making it a priority, it sets the right tone for the group. Joe has done a really nice job of that.”
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
  • Daniel Descalso is at least doing a little bit of baseball activity:

  • I wish the best for all of Willson Contreras’s family and friends, and all the people of Venezuela. I also think it’s very impressive how he’s been able to compartmentalize his work – heck, I hope it’s an escape for him, personally:

  • The Cardinals were so bothered by the possibility that they could be no-hit in a Spring Training game that they kept their big leaguers in the lineup into the 9th so they could break it up:

  • Stay healthy and get it done this year, Jorge:

  • Be advised:

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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.