So Many Called Strikes, the Right Approach, Iowa Bats, and Other Cubs Bullets

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So Many Called Strikes, the Right Approach, Iowa Bats, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

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•   The Cubs have played just two games since Sunday, thanks to a couple scheduled off-days and yesterday’s rainout. That’s not a lot of baseball! I would like the baseball to return. Which it will, today at noon. Double-header for the Cubs on tap, with Drew Smyly and Daniel Norris getting the starts.

•   We have discussed all the third strikes called on Seiya Suzuki, and we’ve also discussed the uptick in strikeouts overall for the Cubs – but you pair those two together and you get a team-wide problem. Sahadev Sharma wrote at length about the Cubs taking so many strikes. Among his points:

After Wednesday’s performance, the Cubs are third in baseball with 29.9 percent of their strikeouts coming as the looking variety. But the Cubs will take those looking strikeouts if they are paired with a lot of walks and good swing decisions earlier in the count. The latter isn’t happening often enough …. In general, the Cubs aren’t much better earlier in the count. Only four teams in baseball let more pitches in the zone pass than the Cubs, with a 28.5 percent looking-strike rate ….

The problem is the Cubs aren’t attacking balls when they should be. Only the Cleveland Guardians have taken a higher rate of strikes in the “heart” of the zone (as defined by Statcast) than the Cubs’ 31.9 percent.

The line between patience and passivity can be fine, but through 24 games, the Cubs are on the wrong side of it.

•   Passivity – just taking pitches to take pitches – is not an approach. Sometimes the best plate discipline in a given situation is swinging early and often. “The Cubs” are not a monolith, mind you, and they are a team comprised of individual hitters doing individual things, so you don’t want to generalize too broadly about what’s working and what isn’t. But for the guys where we’re seeing issues, it looks something like this: too many early takes on drive-able pitches, too many fouled off drivable pitches, and then too many guesses wrong in two-strike counts. As hitting coach Greg Brown suggested in Sharma’s piece, many of the Cubs do have the right idea up there – attack early only if you’re getting exactly what you’re looking for, and then try to stay alive if it gets to two strikes – but they are maybe just not actually executing it successfully.

•   After his scorching start, Iowa Cubs 1B/LF Jared Young had kinda fallen off (down to .197/.275/.423, 83 wRC+ on the year as of a few days ago). Then, three explosion days later, he’s back up to .250/.312/.512 (114) with good peripherals across the board. A reminder about early-season swings in results.

•   With Nelson Maldonado hitting there now, and with Nelson Velazquez on the way, that Iowa offense is starting to get really strong. Poor Christopher Morel saw the Nelsons get promoted and was like, you forgot about me:

•   Morel, a 22-year-old utility prospect who is already on the 40-man, is hitting .311/.380/.589 at Tennessee (156 wRC+), and it’s only a matter of time before he is another big bat at Iowa.

•   Speaking of bats at Iowa, folks have been wondering why Brennen Davis hasn’t played the last few days, and I don’t have an answer for you (stretches like this in the minors are notoriously hard to get info on, because teams don’t disclose minor injuries or give substantial detail even when a guy goes on the IL). We don’t even know if it is an injury or illness issue – Davis hasn’t been placed on the IL – or if this is just a break after his slow start to the season. Sometimes the Cubs do give players multi-day mental resets. Hopefully it’s either that, or just a very minor physical issue.

•   Heh. This is good:

•   I miss Ichiro:

•   Early offensive line talk for the Bears:

•   Thinking about the Bulls and the future of Coby White:

•   And outgoing free agent thoughts on the Blackhawks:

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.