According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune,
The Cubs fired hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo Tuesday and replaced him with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson on an interim basis.
Although personnel has a lot to do with it the Cubs rank near the bottom in nearly every offensive statistical category. Out of 16 teams, here are the team rankings
- Runs - 14th
- OBP - 15th
- Slugging - 12th
- OPS - 14th
- Walks - 14th
- O-Swing - 16th
- wRC+ - 15th
There are limits to what Jaramillo can do with the roster, but one thing the Cubs wanted to see was better plate discipline. The low ranking in OBP, and O-swing, which is the percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone, had to be particularly concerning. It's definitely at odds with the new front offices preferred approach, which is to work counts, grind out ABs, and look for pitches that they can drive.
James Rowson spent the previous 6 years in the Yankees organization, the last 4 as their minor league hitting coordinator. It's difficult to say much about Rowson, or whether he's a candidate for permanent replacement, but we can say that the Cubs minor league hitters have shown a much better ability to work counts. There are players such as Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, Matt Cerda, and Zeke DeVoss, who've always had good discipline and good walk rates, but perhaps more impressive is the improvement in the walk rates of many Cubs prospects this season. Here is a small sample...
- Matt Szczur: 2.7% to 11.1%
- Jae-Hoon Ha: 4.5% to 9.4%
- Nelson Perez: 7.6% to 13.2%
- Junior Lake 5.0% to 8.4%
- Logan Watkins: 8.8% to 11.8%
- Welington Castillo: 8.0% to 12.9%
- Taiwan Easterling: 4.5% to 7.5%
Even the notoriously aggressive Josh Vitters has increased his walk percentage by a point and a half, and though the sample size is extremely small, Javier Baez didn't draw a walk last year and this year his rate is a respectable 7.4%.
It's certainly more of the type of approach this front office wants to see. Not so much that they want to draw walks for the sake of drawing walks, but because walks are an inevitable consequence of grinding out ABs and waiting for your pitch. Of course, it also has a positive effect on OBP, an area where the Cubs currently rank near the bottom of the league.
Whether Rowson is the the permanent answer or not remains to be seen, but with prospects ready to join the big league team in the very near future, it's likely that the Cubs wanted to keep that continuity when it comes to plate approach.