‘Fun lineup’: How the Cubs’ offensive approach has helped them find early success
When the Cubs offense steps into the batter’s box, they have one thing in mind: be patient.
“That’s what we wanna do, make them throw as many pitches and try to get a strike to hit,” Patrick Wisdom said.
That approach is what’s sparked the Cubs to a hot offensive start through the first 11 games of the season. Entering Thursday’s contests, the Cubs ranked in the Top 10 in baseball in OPS (3rd – .774), batting average (3rd – .263), runs per game (10th – 4.58), extra-base hits (6th – 39) and contact percentage (6th – 75.4%). They also have the 8th-fewest strike outs in baseball.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far that a lot of guys are buying into the team approach whether it’s just getting good pitches to hit and just battling our [butts] off in the box,” Frank Schwindel said. “We’re aggressive early, we’re selective when we need to be and I think we just have a great makeup of a lineup right now.
“We’re never out of a game.”
Nothing sums that up more than the series in Colorado. The Cubs had baserunners in 29 of the 36 innings they played at Coors Field. In the last two games against the Rockies, the Cubs had a baserunner in every single frame except the 6th inning of Game 3.
“I think for any offense that’s having consistent quality at-bats, it wears on pitchers and a staff,” Ian Happ said. “But I think we’re doing it 1-through-9, giving ourselves chances and that’s the most important part.”
That’s been especially impressive given some of the arms they’ve faced.
Take the first 3 games of the season where they faced three of the top pitchers in the National League — Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. In Colorado, they faced Germán Márquez — who was an All-Star last season — and against Tampa Bay, they faced a tough lefty in Shane McClanahan and a bullpen day against some tricky arms.
“They still gotta throw it over the plate,” Schwindel said. “No matter what pitch it is, no matter how hard they could throw it, our job is to get a good pitch and then put a good swing on it. We got a lot of guys buying into that mindset of getting on base, get the next guy up and then go from there.”
That patient approach begins with one of the newest guys on the roster.
“It’s great and I think it starts with Seiya [Suzuki],” Schwindel said. “He’s really setting the tone where if it’s not a good pitch to swing at, he’s just not swinging. I think people are feeding into that where we don’t have to necessarily chase that pitcher’s pitch because they gotta come after us at some point.”
And when they do, the Cubs are making sure they make pitchers pay. The team, with its 75.4% contact rate, will put pressure on the opposing defense.
“When you look at a number of our positions, I think we have guys that should be able to put the ball in play,” Jed Hoyer said earlier this week. “I do think that’s a pretty sustainable trait. It’ll probably evaporate from time-to-time with different matchups and different handedness, but I do think we should be a fairly high contact team.”
And the Cubs believe they can still hit another level. The Cubs have hit into the most double plays in baseball this season, a number that Hoyer believes should “normalize at some point.” The team also has the 4th-best slugging percentage in baseball but ranks middle of the pack in home runs — a number that should also rise when the weather warms up a bit at Wrigley Field.
“It’s a good blend of everything and we’ve been putting up a bunch of hits,” Schwindel said. “It’s just a matter of getting that big one here or there. Other than that, it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”
That sentiment has been shared amongst the team. The well-balanced lineup is something they’re enjoying but is what could make it successful over the course of the season.
“We got a fun lineup,” Wisdom said. “Just getting guys on base and creating kind of stressful at-bats for the opposing pitchers.
“Everyone has a unique skillset, and everyone brings something to the table. That makes us dangerous. I love it.”