Cubs show Rudy Jaramillo his "walking" papers

Cubs show Rudy Jaramillo his "walking" papers
Matt Szczur has vastly improved his approach this season

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.

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  • Sometimes this type of change is good for a team. With Rizzo
    ,and maybe some other players coming from AAA, the new guy
    knows them and this should help.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agree, the Cubs are about to bring in a new group of guys and they want a different approach up there than what they've had with Jaramillo.

  • IMO, Castro's piss poor "swing at anything close" approach did him in. Management wants this corrected ASAP.
    Also, with Rizzo's imminent ascent they do not want it repeated.

    So it is written in the book of Jed... "You will walk or you will walk..."
    So let it be done!

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I think Castro's approach has regressed a bit under Jaramillo, especially this year. Now Castro has that Vlad quality in that he can hit a lot of those pitches hard, but you still want him taking more pitches and getting himself in a better count if you want him to develop power.

    I don't think Castro will ever walk that much just because he's so good at making contact.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Castro needs to get with the program. His natural talent for making contact is an asset that should help him take more pitches. He doesn't have to worry about striking out with two strikes like a lot of hitters - he can foul pitches off and wait for a fastball.
    By all accounts he's a hard working player - Sveum has praised his hard work practicing his defense. I hope Sveum is also stressing that he work hard on changing his plate approach. It's time for a small step forward in that regard. He ranks fifth in OPS on a lousy team--behind Reed Johnson and David DeJesus. Heavens to Betsy.

  • How agreeable are major league players to adapting their approach at the plate? I can see a lot of them fighting it.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It's a legit question and the answer is I think it's very difficult, especially as they get older.

    You can see many of the young players in this piece have done it quite well, and I'm sure the Cubs want the same, consistent message going out to guys like Rizzo and Jackson as they reach the big leagues.

    I think there's some hope here with Starlin Castro since he's younger than Rizzo or Jackson, and the kid really wants to get better, so I think he'll listen too.

    As for the older vets, Cubs won't have to worry about them much longer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That makes sense. Raise them through the system on it, it becomes ingrained and just another part of "The Cubs Way." Free agents we bring in we'll have targeted because they already have those qualities.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Exactly.

  • You can count on Soriano swinging at sliders low and away out of the strike zone no matter who coaches him.

    But hey... they got him to drop an ounce. That's progress!!

  • In reply to eaton53:

    That's true. Some guys are too set in their ways. The biggest impact, if there is any, will be in the next few years with the younger players.

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    Hard to feel sorry for Jaramillo. He's going to be collecting quite a check to stay home. Anyway, his philosophy is not this front offices philosophy, and I'm surprised they didn't let him go with Quade and the rest of the staff back in the fall.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Cubs seem to be willing to give everyone a fair shake but in the end I think most of the holdovers, except for Wilken, Fleita, Wilson, and much of the scouting staff will probably be gone.

  • Another of Hendry's mistakes. Good riddance.

  • Nice guy, but he was a high profile band-aid. Seemed to fit Hendry's style, but not this front office

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought one or two of the scouts were gone, but he was or they were guys Wilken was going to let go anyways.

  • The headline says it all. Well put.

  • In reply to mupethifi:

    Thanks!

  • Although Jaramillo is a good hitting coach, he was too hyped and overpriced. Plus his aggressive approach goes against Theo and Co.'s approach of taking pitches and getting on base. To me, this is a case of genuine differences of styles.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I don't think Theo would have hand-picked Jaramillo if it were up to him. Kudos for giving him a shot but also for acting quickly when he realized it wasn't going to work.

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    Non-thread related: Miles just tweeted that Rizzo has left the game with an injury. He didn't say what it was.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    We addressed it in the other thread. He seems to be fine, hurt his leg but walked off under his own power, was in good spirits and didn't appear to need much in the way of treatment.

    I'll address it again in the minor league recap.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Mini-update: Theo just confirmed that Rizzo is OK.

  • You cant win the Triple Crown if you train a jackass to run the races.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Wise words.

  • Hmmm...

    Epstein just said this according to a tweet by Bruce Levine.

    "Rudy is great hitting coach but we need to emphasize as an organization to get your pitch to hit."

    My thoughts exactly!

  • My favorite Rudy Jaramillo story is shortly after it was announced that Rudy was diagnosed with cancer ( I want to say Prostate Cancer....but I could be wrong.) they asked one of his fellow coaches, Mike Maddux?, if they felt bad for him.

    "Are you kidding?" Maddux asked. " I feel bad for the cancer."

    Rudy's track record kind of speaks for itself. Personally I think hitting coaches are a tad overrated. When hitters aren't hitting, they blame the coach. Rudy struck me as a guy who worked very hard. Philosophy difference? Obviously.

    Anyway, I wish him well. And my bar is set at the same level that it was for Rudy. Which is not really that much.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Great story. I wish him well also. He just wasn't a good fit with this FO's philosophy.

    And I do agree on MLB hitting coaches having limited impact. I think what they want is to set a certain philosophy and standard early on in their minor league system. Get these guys with good habits early...then just have an MLB hitting coach who can hold the fort and continue that philosophy. Can't have a guy who is at odds at what you're teaching at the lower levels.

  • "Rudy is great hitting coach but we need to emphasize as an organization to get your pitch to hit."

    I've wanted to ask this question in the past and this is a perfect opportunity...
    How do the Cubs (or any MLB organization) have their hitters (from the minors through the majors) get on the same page as the front office. Sure the FO can say "get your pitch to hit" but how do they put the rubber to the road? In other words, how does the FO get continuity in their hitting philosophy through the ranks?

  • In reply to svelocity:

    It has to start with the draft and getting the right guys. They have to have a solid approach and/or makeup to begin with -- like Almora. It then has to be emphasized from a very young age. I think by the time a guy is 25 years old, it gets tougher.

    One of our contributors suggested that Junior Lake was held down for extra time in ext. spring training to work on his approach. After seeing the improvement, I wonder if maybe he was right. The same thing with Javier Baez.

    Then once they make the majors, you want a guy who preaches the same philosophy. You need consistency in philosophy from the day they're signed to their last day as a Cub.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The improvement you point out in walk rates for Cubs prospects is really encouraging to me. If these guys know that their OBP needs to be high to get to the big leagues, then they'll work on it.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I think that's exactly what the Cubs are trying to instill and it seems like quite a few prospects have taken it to heart.

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    In reply to svelocity:

    At one point years ago the A's had a policy of not promoting players if they didn't have more walks than strikeouts. That was early in Billy Beane's tenure there and I believe they dropped that quickly, but still emphasized walks and getting on base. This was long before the Moneyball stuff became well known.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I think they later had something where they could not win Organizational Player of the week/month/year awards unless they had a certain OBP or higher.

  • In reply to svelocity:

    Great question as I feel this has been one of the major issues this franchise has had for the last 23 years..

    No philosophy on how to instruct the prospects they've drafted.

  • I think Epstein is right, draft or trade guys who fit into your way of thinking. Personally I believe hitting coaches are bit overated, as long as everyone in the organization believes the same thing hitting wise from the lowest rookie league to the majors, it should not matter too much who the hitting coach is .

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    He just has to keep the flow going...

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    The hardest thing to get across to a young hitter is that there are pitches that are strikes but that the hitter can't do much with, and to learn to take those (as well as balls), and only swing at the pitches they can drive (unless you have two strikes and are protecting the zone). Castro is awful at this.

    It's not Rudy's fault. I think Rudy was overrated because he had the benefit of working in Texas for years. We all see the ball jumps whenever the temperature goes up - it's normally hot in Texas: ideal hitting environment. How much impact the hitting coach truly has is up for debate. Players have to listen and work with them, and many of these guys have huge egos.

    It's also kind of funny that the FO gave Rudy virtually no talent to work with this season, then complained about the results. We have how many true big league starting hitters in the lineup most days? This is a team of retreads, journeymen, declining veterans, and one promising kid (plus LaHair).

    I'm not saying don't fire him. If they have a different plan, then bring in someone who better matches it. But that should have really been done during the offseason.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    That's also the problem Josh Vitters has. Just because you CAN hit it, ddoesn't mean you SHOULD.

  • In other news, has anyone heard about what happened to Ben Wells? He left with an injury last week and on Sunday his spot in the rotation was skipped, but there still isn't any report on what happened to him, unless I missed it.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Haven't heard. I asked but it wasn't known at the time. I'll see if I can try and find out again.

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    hahaha! I read the title of the article and laughed out loud.

    Awesome punnyness, John

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Haha! Thanks!

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    Anyone else notice how much weight Prince Fielder has gained this year? He's only in the first year of a huge deal, the Tigers brass has to be concerned about his lack of condition/desire to be his best. He's far heavier than he was the last few years in Milwaukee.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Looks like we dodged a bullet there...not that I ever thought he was really coming here.

  • I have to think Jaramillo, was on the hot seat all along. Like you stated his philosophy, just doesn't seem to gel with the new front office. Probably why they brought Rowson, in to begin with.He was given the minor league hitting coordinator job after holding the same position with the Yankees. Bring him in, call him up, and give the job back to Tom Beyers. Something fishy there, Rowson was always going to get a chance at the job. Hope it works out, theo and co. always seemed be thinking several steps ahead.

  • In reply to legendarycubs:

    Agree. I think his days were numbered from the start.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    On the flip side of that, good to see that so far EVERYONE in the organization is accountable to deliver excellence as part of a consistent philosophy. After watching Quade / Hendry flail around the last couple years I wasn't sure that Ricketts had that in him to execute on.

    That's why this is professional baseball, the good franchises don't give out A's (or no-trade clauses) for effort!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    It's not good enough to try hard because that's what you should be doing. In the end it's having the right process in place that leads to the right results. Jaramillo was getting the results because what he was preaching just wasn't working. The Cubs need to have one philosophy, top-to-bottom, and I think Jaramillo's firing, trivial as it may be, symbolizes that.

  • Is Von Joshua still at AAA? Didn't they give him a position back with Iowa after the hired Rudy? I wonder if they'd put him back in charge of hitting at AAA...

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