Cubs’ Jed Hoyer: Contact is good, but ‘the ball’s on the ground too much’
The Cubs have skyrocketed up the contact rate rankings since last year. They’re also last in MLB in launch angle.
Only so much can be extrapolated from 11 games worth of statistics. But Cubs manager David Ross sees the contact numbers as reflective of the team’s new offensive makeup.
“On paper, that’s the personnel we have, right?” Ross said before Wednesday’s 8-2 loss against the Rays. “[Nick] Madrigal is going to make a lot of contact. Nico [Hoerner] is going to make a lot of contact. Frank Schwindel is going to make a lot of contact. Seiya [Suzuki] seems to be a guy that’s going to control the strike zone and not punch out a whole lot. We have that profile up and down our lineup.”
Entering Wednesday, the Cubs had the fifth highest contact rate in the National League (78.0), according to FanGraphs. They finished last in that category (73.6 percent) last season.
“Certainly there’s been a lot of contact,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said this week. “I think certainly that’s a little bit of a change from the past. We’re definitely way less explosive than we were. I feel like we’ve faced some pretty good pitchers so far and we’ve been able to limit the strikeout numbers for the most part and put the ball in play.
“We’ve got to get the ball in the air more. That’s obvious. And then double play numbers have to normalize at some point a little bit. They’re exceptionally high right now.”
Entering the game, the Cubs led the majors in grounding into 15 double plays. Some of that reflected how often they were getting on base. Some of it was their ground ball rate (44.4 percent).
“On the positive side, the contact,” Hoyer continued. “On the negative side, the ball’s on the ground too much. That’s what we have to address. There’s always something you’re addressing, and that’s certainly one thing right now.”
The Cubs also had the lowest launch angle in the majors (six degrees) entering the game, per Statcast. But the offense has been effective in the first 11 games of the season, ranked fifth in the NL in runs scored with 53.
After the 4-2 win Monday against the Rays, outfielder Ian Happ wore an Obvious Shirts T-shirt that read, “Launch angle is overrated.”
Asked if that was true, he said, “Today it was, yeah.”
Happ’s go-ahead RBI single that game had a launch angle of six degrees. Point taken. Happ also expects the team’s numbers to normalize as the season continues.
“There will be more damage by this group as guys get into a rhythm,” Happ said in a conversation with the Sun-Times last week. “I haven’t produced much damage yet. There’s other guys that you’re used to hitting the ball out of the ballpark that just some of those things here haven’t happened yet. But I think it’s coming. I think that the plate discipline, and just the hits in general, is pretty impressive.”
PIRATES AT CUBS
Thursday: RHP Bryse Wilson (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. Mark Leiter Jr. (0-1, 18.90), 6:40 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM/1200-AM.
Friday: José Quintana (0-1, 3.86) vs. Drew Smyly (1-0, 0-00), 1:20 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM/1200-AM.
Saturday: Zach Thompson (0-1, 9.00) vs. Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 6.08), 1:20 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM/1200-AM.
Sunday: JT Brubaker (0-2, 7.30) vs. Justin Steele (1-1, 4.50), 1:20 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM/1200-AM.