Cubs key to success so far this season: Controlling the strike zone

Jason Hammel's brilliant no-walk performance last night reminded me of something we stressed over and over again this offseason. I've said on numerous occasions that the Cubs goal wasn't so much to find players to fill holes as it was to acquire players who help contribute to filling one big overall hole: Controlling the strike zone on both sides of the ball.

Theo Epstein strongly believes that it is fundamental to winning, as stated in this Joe Posnanski article (h/t Zonk).

When I talked with Chicago’s Theo Epstein, he made it even clearer. His overriding philosophy of baseball is this – you must control the strike zone. He believes that is true of pitchers (throw strikes, get ground balls) and hitters (swing at pitches you can drive). The strike zone, in his mind, is like football’s line of scrimmage. Control it, and you win.

The Cubs acquired such players to accomplish this via the mound (Lester, Hammel), at the plate (Montero, Fowler, LaStella, Ross), and behind the plate (Montero, Ross).

Along with Anthony Rizzo, the idea was to bring in veterans who could instill that culture on the rest of the Cubs young roster.

How was that plan worked so far?

The Cubs are guaranteed their first winning April since 2008, the last year they won a division title and it is in large part because they control that strike zone.

We can start with the pitchers, who have walked a paltry 36 batters all season long, less than any team in baseball. That is less than 2 per 9 IP (1.98). That alone is important. Of the top 7 teams in lowest walk rate, 5 of them are in first place and two are in second -- the Royals by a half game and the Cubs by just one game. The only team in first not in that top 7 is the Detroit Tigers, and they rank 10th.

But the Cubs pitchers aren't just pitching to contact, they're missing bats, ranking 5th in strikeout rate (8.73/9 IP). Strikeouts are a factor of controlling the strike zone simply because a pitcher is more likely to be successful once they are ahead in the count. And if they have swing and miss stuff to go with good control, they can put hitters away once they have two strikes. Once again if we take a look around the league, we see successful teams in this category as well. Of the top 10 teams, 8 are .500 or better. Of the 5 teams who rank in the top 11 in both categories, 4 are in first place. The other is the Cubs.  The combination is what propels the Cubs to a major league leading 2.87 FIP.

How much that has to do with Miguel Montero and David Ross is up for debate, but the Lester/Ross combo has a strikeout to walk ratio of 5 to 24. Arrieta, who has praised Montero has a 25 to 7 and Hammel has an incredible 23 to 1 ratio. And he was quick to give Montero credit for his performance last night.

We know Montero and Ross have historically been good pitch framers and while these pitchers throw strikes, it would seem the catchers at least enhance that ability.  The confidence and leadership they've inspired with the staff is immeasurable.

Then there's the hitters.  This was even a bigger sore spot on the Cubs.  Since the 2008 season, the team has consistently ranked near the bottom in walks.  This year they rank 7th in all of baseball and 2nd in the National League with a 9.1% rate.  Last year they had just two starters (Anthony Rizzo and Luis Valbuena) plus Mike Olt over that mark.

Walks can fluctuate to some degree but they tend to stabilize pretty quickly, so there is reason to be encouraged.  What is more encouraging is the Cubs just aren't chasing as many pitches and that tends to be a more process-oriented statistic that are more likely to stay consistent as the year goes on.

When it comes to swinging at pitches outside the zone, the Cubs have done it among the fewest times in baseball (27.1%) of the time, good for 5th least in baseball, ranking just behind traditionally disciplined teams like the Rays and Athletics.

Going position-by-position, that process extends to pitches per plate appearances.  The Cubs are seeing a lot of pitches up and down their lineup:

  • C: Montero - 4.06 P/PA (ranks 5th among catchers with 50 PAs or more)
  • 1B; Rizzo - 4.20 (ranks 6th among qualified 1Bs)
  • SS: Castro - 3.81 (ranks 5th among qualified shortstops)
  • 3B; Bryant - 4.25 (ranks 1st among 3Bs with 25 PAs or more)
  • CF: Fowler - 3.91 (ranks 9th among qualified CF'ers)
  • RF: Soler - 3.90 (ranks 10th among qualified RF'ers)

That is essentially 6 of 8 everyday players in the top 10 in pitches seen per appearance.  That puts a lot of stress on pitchers while also giving the hitters a chance to see their whole repertoire, increasing the odds the pitcher will make a mistake and give the hitter a pitch he can drive and, of course, more likely to draw a walk and increase the team's OBP.  When it comes to the broader statistics, OBP has historically been among the biggest indicators of a team's success.  The Cubs team OBP so far?  .324.  Good for 3rd in the National League.

It was a painstaking road to get to this point and the front office took some gambles this offseason to get the players in that would help instill this culture of controlling the strike zone.  The acquisitions have helped do just that and along with mature beyond their years players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, it has started to spread to the rest of the ball club.

Attitudes can be contagious.   And with the team-oriented Cubs this year, that's a good thing..

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  • John, I remember your offseason piece on this and this is a great follow up. Once again it shows how carefully this FO plans and how those plans are showing dividends. It's really gratifying to see something that was discussed so often have measurable results.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Thanks. One of the things I want to do this year is follow up on stuff I write on in the offseason. I've always assumed people will remember but there is so much info out there that things can get lost.

  • I liked his #wearegood. I've only heard Maddon say respect 90, but with that article you (I believe) linked to the other day where the guy bumped into Mike Olt where Olt said "yes, we are good" makes me think that's something they say inside Maddon's clubhouse as well.

  • In reply to hawkmcd:

    We did link that article and that is a good observation. It may have originated from Maddon but Montero has be the spokesman.

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    For what it is worth the guys that have played 2B significantly this year:
    Herrera: 4.06 P/PA
    Alcantara: 4/13 P/PA
    La Stella: 5.00 P/PA (30 pitches, 6 PA...SSS certainly applies...but he has a history of taking a lot of pitches averaging 4.15 for his career 366 PA).
    Russell: 4.24 P/PA

    So 2B isn't that big of a black hole in this department. I think they will vault themselves into

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Didn't mean to imply that was a black hole, just that there isn't one player to point to yet. Russell is getting there. I used Bryant for 25 PAs, but that is only because he has 49 PAs IIRC, and just missed the 50 cutoff.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I know you didn't mean. My point was that 1 of the positions that didn't make the list wasn't bad either.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Gotta like the P/PA, but with a combined BA of .136 and an OBP south of .200, the team definitely needs more from the 2B position. Hopefully, Russell gets it going and La Stella gets back soon.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    The P/PA represents process. Average and OBP represents results. The general thinking in this org is that good results follow good process. It starts with process and if you're patient, the results will come more often than not.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Undoubtedly! It will happen, and sooner rather than later!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hammel has a K/BB ratio so far of 24/1. Cant get any better than that, last night showed what happens when you work quickly and throw strikes.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I like LaStella's history of getting on base. I think when healthy he will force Russell back to Iowa, unless Russell gets hot Tommy could still wind up at third. I think he'd be a good 2 hitter.

  • Great analysis, John. Thank you. Seems like controlling the strike zone offensively and defensively may be the key difference between this year and the last several. For the first time I am really beginning to understand and appreciate what the FO has been preaching about "approach" because I can see it in action.

    Of course, doing so requires having the right players to execute and I am all smiles just thinking about Rizzo and Bryant batting back to back for the foreseeable future. Rizzo is simply bad ass this year. And forget about his power -- which I know we'll be seeing soon enough -- I am totally impressed with Bryant's two-strike hitting. A Triple Crown may well be in his future because I believe those projections of Bryant hitting in the .250-.275 range sold him short.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Thank you. The Bryant-Rizzo combo looks like it will be a nightmare for opponents for many years to come.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The thought of what this lineup can become, has me absolutely giddy!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My brain is still hard-wired, whenever Rizzo gets on base, to be momentarily beset by a dark cloud of pessimism, deeply ingrained by enduring so many feckless seasons. Then I see Bryant, remember its 2015, and start grinning.

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    In reply to TTP:

    If he can keep his K% closer to 20% than 30% AND have an outstanding BABIP and he could do really well. What amazes me is that his first 2 years in the minors he had BABIP of over .400. That is in nearly 750 PAs (not including 33 this season). Maybe his current pace of .464 may well be unsustainable but it isn't as preposterous as I thought.

  • Great Article John

    Give up fewer walks, take more walks = More wins

    A very simple formula.

    I think the two biggest stats from this are:

    Castro - 3.81 (ranks 5th among qualified shortstops
    Bryant - 4.25 (ranks 1st among 3Bs with 25 PAs or more

    Castro has made big strides and Bryant has shown great plate discipline for a rookie.

    On the pitching side, throw it in the zone, make them hit to get on base. Even the best hitters make outs 70%. Make them beat you, dont beat yourselves

    The future is bright. Let's Go !

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Thanks, CubbyBear!

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Cubs are playing ..667 ball so far within the division. Already have beaten the Pirates 3 times(4-15 against PGH last year) and are 5-1 against Cincy(6-13 last year).

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    If we could take 2 of 3 from the pirates and then beat up on the crippled Brewers in the next two weeks I think it would go a long way towards letting the Division know that we are not pushovers this year. Onward !

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    In reply to cubbybear7753:

    My favorite Bryant AB so far was his walk vs. Chapman. Most guys with only a week or so in the league and a reputation for power would be jumping out of their shoes to swing at a 100 mph fastball. Trying to prove they belong. He put up a solid AB and made Chapman work and then simply accepted his walk rather than swinging at a pitch out of the zone.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Totally agree!

  • I absolutely LOVE that tweet by Hammel! When a pitcher has that much confidence in his catcher, well, Hammel said it better than anyone else can!

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    My thoughts as well.

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    Theo Epstein is on record as saying something along the lines of "The strike zone is the line of scrimmage in baseball". Basically, in football the game is won-lost often right at the line of scrimmage, in baseball, it's won-lost in the strike zone.

    I am paraphrasing of course, but I think that philosophy is coming through; that strike zone control is of fundamental importance

  • In reply to Zonk:

    And there you have it. Glad to see that because it confirms the pattern we've seen since the end of the 2014 season. The Cubs were focused on precisely this area of the game.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Here it is:
    http://joeposnanski.com/royally-avoiding-strikeouts/
    "When I talked with Chicago’s Theo Epstein, he made it even clearer. His overriding philosophy of baseball is this – you must control the strike zone. He believes that is true of pitchers (throw strikes, get ground balls) and hitters (swing at pitches you can drive). The strike zone, in his mind, is like football’s line of scrimmage. Control it, and you win."

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks, Wish I would have seen that article earlier. I could have quoted him!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ahh, what the heck. Updated and quoted Theo anyway. It just fits too perfectly.

  • What are the numbers for the Cubs with bats regarding strikeouts? How's their k% compared to the league?

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    They are at the bottom in the NL but the importance of Ks on offense is relative. It only matters if you don't get on base (including via the walk) and hit for power. Neither appears like it will be a problem for the Cubs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting...The Cubs and the Royals appear to be direct opposite in regards to this offensive stat...

    The Royals don't walk however they also don't K much. While the Cubs K rate is very high, they take pitches and get plenty of BB's.

    Two different ways to be successful.

  • In reply to MilwaukeeRoad:

    The Royals don't really succeed because of their offense. Not last year, they were in the bottom half of the league in most categories. Right now they are hitting very, very well, but it remains to be seen whether that lasts. Their BABIP is the second highest in all of baseball, an unsustainable .334 as a team.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't know if the Cubs will rank in the top half of the league any time soon, but their strikeout numbers might be a little higher right now due to factors like Alcantara's poor start and Russell's adjustment to MLB pitching.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yes, I think some of those issues will be cured with experience. Russell in particular has been a pretty good contact hitter in the minors. Cubs will probably need to add better contact guys in the offseason, though. So far for them it is just Starlin Castro who they can rely on to make contact consistently.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    yep. add to that soler struggling as of late. but, over the course of the season, i'd suspect it to stabilize. small sample size. i'm excited to see where this team is headed.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe K's are an issue but we have lots of "contact" guys still in the minors (Vogelbach, McKinney, Almora, Schwarber, etc.) That will help.

    Also, I think that it is hard to have a high P/PA type number and not rack up a large number of K's (and BB). If you are averaging 4-5 P/PA it is likely that there will be a lot of 2 strike counts. Unless the player is particularly good at fouling pitches (which will get you in 2-strike counts) off I think that just comes with the territory.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    no doubt. and i definitely agree about the approach naturally leading to more strikeouts. which does make contact guys very important. i was more asking because so many people have said that this team would strikeout a ton, and i was hoping that they weren't at the bottom of the nl. we can explain it away, and, i mean, the cubs are winning right now, but, it could lead to troubles down the road.

    there are definite scenarios where contact is needed as a hitter. i get it that it's not a huge issue as long as guys are getting on base, but an out isn't always just an out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see it as the difference between called strikes and swinging (esp. out of the zone) strikes. Don't get yourself out -- outs are currency to be wisely spent.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    I think that is something he probably has to understand. If pitchers are going to hit that low strike-ish pitch repeatedly and the Joe Wests of the world are going to call it, then he can't do much about it and makes it even worse by swinging at them. Can't do much with it anyway.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    I think the main thing when looking at strikeouts is to determine why they are happening. Are players chasing pitches out of the strike zone and helping the pitcher out? Or are they taking borderline pitches, hoping for something better later on, and so on occasion getting themselves in bad counts.

    So far, this group seems to be leaning towards the latter, which is fine with me. That type of approach leads to the higher P/PA and power numbers.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Yep, and as mentioned in the piece, the Cubs are the 5th best in baseball when it comes to not chasing pitches outside the strike zone.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John Mallee has been a heck of an edition to the team.

  • In reply to Andrue Weber:

    Yes, but Theo and Jed's selection process gets a lot of the credit.

  • In reply to Andrue Weber:

    Agreed. Hopefully he is here for years to come.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    i generally agree with you, however i think it matters greatly when the strikeouts are happening as well. allow me to refine my question (and i am hoping that they aren't in the bottom of the nl in these stats): how does the cubs k% with risp compare to the league?; and, how does the cubs k% with runner on 1b and less than two outs compare to the league?

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    Great article!! I love when teams focus on and execute the fundamentals of a game. All the little things add up to big things and this years team is as fun to watch as any Cubs team I can remember in a while. I have big hopes for this club!

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    Thanks, Brandon. It is winning at the margins. It starts small and it all adds up if you are consistent with it.

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    I agree this cubs team seems really fun. is that because they are so young? or is that because we have been watching this come together for 3 years?

  • I think you'll find similar rankings for the MiLB affiliates as well in regards to the OBP & P/PA. This is obviously something that is clearly spelled out in "The Cubs Way" manual and being ingrained at every level. Even free-swinging or "see the ball - hit the ball" guys that didn't have it emphasized under the old regime are catching on ala Castro, A.A. and even Baez.

  • So impressed with Bryant's polish. You need a couple hitters who can not only slug mistakes but beat the best pitchers in the game at the end of the season. I gotta wear shades.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    I also like that he is willing to take a walk rather than chase in game situations. Doesn't get himself out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Certainly made Worley pitch to him last night, then burned him when he had to.

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    Is plate discipline learned, or are you born with it? Pitchers can learn to throw more strikes, but hitters have much more difficulty changing their approach....am I right?

    So many players have tried to correct a plate discipline problem, and failed. Brett Jackson is a great example; as a player, he has every tool except that one--plate discipline. And it sank him.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I don't know but if it is learned, I will bet it is learned early on and it gets harder as you get older.

    My very first little league manager stressed taking pitches and waiting for pitches you can hit. I took a ton of walks even as a kid -- probably because there weren't many pitches I could drive even if I wanted to ;). That is something I remember to this day.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "I don't know but if it is learned, I will bet it is learned early on and it gets harder as you get older."

    That's why I think the odds aren't with Baez figuring it out. This is one case where I'll be glad to be wrong!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Sounds like you were like me. I am pushing 40 and still "waiting for a pitch I can drive...mostly because I was never good at driving the ball."

  • In reply to Zonk:

    IIRC, not being able to make contact was the problem with Brett Jackson. He always had a good approach. Just missed the ball when he swung.

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    In reply to Gerald:

    Could be. That, by the way according to a recent article on the BP Wrigleville site, is Olt's problem. He is actually making good decisions on what pitches to swing at; he isn't swinging at junk out of the zone all the time, and is good at taking balls. The problem is that when he swings, he doesn't make enough contact. That's his problem. Probably B-Jax too.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    That is my memory of B-Jaxx. He seemed to take a decent number of BB too. His big problem was just making contact. I agree that is Olt's problem.

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    Again, I learn so much here and see how the approach that the FO has stressed for all these years is coming to fruition now. Even Castro has become better at seeing pitches. How have the the Cubs done defensively this year? I still see errors and to me that's akin to
    walking batters--more often than not they come in to score.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I am seeing physical errors but the mental errors are down, I think. We aren't overthrowing the cut off man as often (not always recorded in the box score). We are mostly fielding the ones that we "should." I am not too worried. Especially since we have several players playing unfamiliar positions: Russell at 2B, Bryant trying OF, etc.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Cubs have allowed 2 unearned runs. They have 13 errors. Don't believe your perception fits at least so far this year.

  • I'm a big fan of Beef, but I can't get my head around why they haven't let Ross or Montero catch T Wood yet. I thought for certain (since he has to live on the edge of the strike zone to be successful) that he would be a huge beneficiary of their superior framing skills.

    I know we have to find some p/t for Beef, until he is traded. But shouldn't one of Ross/Montero be developing some repoire with him like Montero has with Arrieta and Hammel?

    I know some will say that Beef caught him during his stellar 2013 season. That is true. He also caught him during his 2014 demise. And also caught Hammel & Arrieta during their stellar 2014 seasons....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think part of it is that Wood has faced 2 left handed pitchers and I think Maddon wants to use Castillo when his splits are favorable. Marquis is a RHP, of course, so maybe Maddon wants to give Montero a day off. I agree that Wood would be a pitcher that would likely benefit greatly from having Montero/Ross catch for him.

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    Great stuff John,

    I really thought we might be hearing fans bellyaching about the lack of HR's by Bryant so far but it's hard to dispute his huge contribution so far. I also think that when pitchers start to realize he just won't chase that breaking stuff outside the zone, they are going to try some more fastballs.

    That will be the time we see Bryant bust out with 5 or 6 HR's in a week! It also looks like Soler broke out of that mini slump and just can't wait to see warmer weather. Which brings me to my next point. I gotta believe that as the weather warms up in Chicago, we are only going to see larger offensive explosions taking place by this squad!

    Thoughts?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Bryants power will come, Hes hit 2 walls(one in PNC park, one of the deepest power alleys in baseball) and just missed a HR that hooked foul. Right now, frankly, no one will throw him a strike when hes ahead in the count, or they throw offspeed pitches on the plate on 2 strike counts(Worley did that twice last night, including his 2rbi single).

  • I love looking at the number of pitches in the 4th inning by the opposing pitcher and see that number in the 60's, 70's or even higher. The Cubs have done that consistently all year and I don't think it's something that is likely to change.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    agreed. I especially like when it happens at the beginning of a series. It is a nice way to tax the opposing bullpen early to help us win games later in the series.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Not only does it tax their 'pen but it gives our guys a look at who they have in their pen. Often bullpens don't have a ton of veterans and good hitting teams usually do better against guys they have faced before.

  • Earlier I posted the following but I don't think many people saw it.......
    I've been watching Cubs team RISP move up for the last several games. Now standing at .239 ...good for 17th in MLB. Last years abysmal average was .223 (29th) next to last in baseball....The stars here are Herrara 4 for 7, Bryant 6/15, Castro 9/25, Montero 4/12, and Rizzo 5/16.
    The great OBP stats of Rizzo and Bryant has resulted in Castro coming up with RISP 25 times and he has hit .360 on those occasions.

  • In reply to TL Lyon:

    RISP is hard to sustain from year to year, but there are some things you can do situationally that help. Castro has been great this year in those situations because he has focused on cutting the swing down and putting the ball in play. Herrera is a pest who fouls off good pitchers pitches and the rest have great batting eyes and are willing to either get a good pitch and drive in the run or happily take the walk and let someone else drive them home.

  • I like how our two most prolific homerun hitters have walked or driven in runs with base hits to the opposite field.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If im right so far this year KB has pulled only 4 of his hits. Hes mostly going up the middle or to right-center. His approach reminds me of Paul Konerko during his most productive years with the White Sox.

  • Thanks John for another great article. I am a 50 year Cub fan in WI, so I don't have many friends/relatives to talk Cubs with. I found your site a couple years ago and have been reading religiously since. I love baseball & thought I knew a lot about it, but have learned so much since reading your stuff. This is just another example of things us "fans" don't look at or think about normally. I don't comment much but I also love to read the blog. So many readers have so much knowledge & it's great to read the different point of views. I tell every Cub fan I meet about your site. There seems to be a few more coming out of hiding up here now that the Ricketts/Theo plan is coming to fruition. Thanks again.

  • In reply to Killdagoat:

    Thank you, I appreciate the kind words and the support. One thing I always say about baseball is you never really stop learning.

    The site continues to grow and that is great. One thing we are proud of is that we never write to try to get clicks, we just write the best and most original content we can and hope for the best. We're glad a lot of you see the game the same way we do.

  • Interesting that Hammel's tweet praising Montero last night really had nothing to do with pitch framing, but was about how Montero called the pitch sequences. It appears that Hammel let Montero call all of the pitches/locations without a shake off, he was that good. I think that some catchers are significantly better that others in this particular area.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Yes, you normally aren't going to see pitchers talk about framing, they're more concerned with how the game is managed from a pitch calling standpoint and also as far as communication between pitcher/catcher. Not sure you'll ever see one mention framing, but those intangibles Hammel mentions in the tweet can be very important when it comes to making a pitcher feel comfortable out there.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Another nice thing about the tweet is its message is, "Miggy, I trust you. Whatever you tell me to throw I will throw." While he may well have that trust with all catchers it would be hard for the pitcher if he had any doubt that this was a good pitch to throw in this situation.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hammel mentioned one thing interesting. Montero figured out early Hammel had a good feeling for hjs secondary pitches, and started calling them early in the game.

  • I think that it is possible that Cub fans will see both Vogelbach and Schwarber this year in Wrigley, because their bats and approach at the plate are so advanced. Schwarber as a dh/lf/c and Vogelbach as dh/pinch hitter/Rizzo' s back rest fill in. It would happen late in the summer but early enough to qualify for WS roster.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I would be very surprised in fact shocked if either of those two see Wrigley this year. Vogelbach would have to kill AA and AAA pitchers for that to happen and Schwarber needs to work on his catching skills. Getting Schwarber to to be an adequate Major League Catcher would be enormous for this organization going forward.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I thought that the only requirement to be eligible for the playoffs was to be on the 40 man roster before 9/1????

  • In reply to 44slug:

    dh?

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    Me thinks that 44slug was speaking of (needing a) dh for when we start playing american league teams (of course) on the road (double dog of course). I have not looked at the sched to see if there is a patch of those enough consecutively iot justify bringing up those two up. Yet then again, that would be unlikely due to their lack of AAA ab's prior to being Theo eligible to be called up to the bigs.

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    Interleague in AL parks and World Series.

  • I think what will happen is teams now know that they cannot solely pitch Soler/Rizzo/Bryant on the inner half / inner black as they are still getting their hits. They will start to find the next perceived weakness / hole that they will try to exploit. That will mean more balls either down or out so that these guys can get their arms extended a bit. Soler and Bryant are learning more nuance-hitting pitch to pitch still about when they will see a hitter's pitch based upon count. It will be exciting to watch the maturation happen as the season goes on.

  • Terrific article, John. It's these types of insights that keep me coming back to Cubs Den!

    I wonder what other organizations think when they see comments by Theo about controlling the strike zone. Are they also pursuing that strategy - just not as successfully? Or are they working on other paths to the postseason?

  • i asked these questions above, but am afraid it could get lost in the discussion: how does the cubs k% with risp compare to the league? (i was able to look on fangraphs and they have a 23.8 k% with risp, 6th worst in mlb); and, how does the cubs k% with runner on 1b and less than two outs compare to the league?

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    no splits, the team's k% is 23.3%, second worst in mlb. so, while actually being a little worse with risp, compared to the league they are a little bit better.

  • Another excellent post and fine comments. Good piece in the last couple of days (I believe in SI), David Oritz, who knows something about hitting over two decades, talking about the incredible stuff thrown throughout a staff today--not just nasty, moving fastballs mid-90s, but the repertoire pitchers now bring. I was wondering, have never encountered but ... while hitters working counts contributes to controlling the zone and correlates highly to winning games (as does throwing strikes), are there metrics that examine pushing starters our of games with high pitch counts, and "taxing" bullpen arms with some consistency? Sounds like something interesting, perhaps worthy of a look by the super saber-metric folks ..

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    I see that Almora was placed on the DL. Do you know what's wrong with him?

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Hanneman to TEN and Trey Martin moves up to MB.

    Waves of CF prospects....

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Concussion

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    Speaking of mastery of the strike zone, I see Junior Lake is in the lineup tonight

  • Some interesting numbers for the 2015 Cubs. Crooked numbers:
    This year 15% 2014 11%
    Surrendered 11% 2014 13%
    2015 Comeback wins 6 losses 3
    2014 Comeback wins 24 losses 32
    2013 Comeback wins 20 losses 43

    Obviously the improvement in positive comebacks has so much to do with the vastly improved bullpen. And our favorable W/L record has got to be attributed to the improvement in crooked numbers. For too many years we seldom went first to third on hits and lack of scoring with 2 outs.

  • Reading that Baez isn't going to be learning a new position and LaStella possibly coming back from the DL soon, does that mean that Russell will be sent back down when LaStella comes back?

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