Just One Bowl of Chili

It’s one and done for Chili Davis. The Cubs have parted with Davis after just one year. It’s hard to argue that the one year was anything other than a giant disappointment. I’ve already written about the Cubs offense overall its contribution to the madenning finish to the 2018 season. Brendan Miller did a deep, deep dive into the Chili Davis effect in 2018 but I think it’s worth continuing to poke at the subject now that Davis has ultimately been fired.

The 2018 Cubs offense was worse than the 2017 version in a number of ways. One of the big things preached by Davis and about the Davis hiring was the aim of increasing the lineup’s ability to hit to the opposite field and to increase contact. the 2018 Cubs improved marginally in that hitting to the opposite field (23.8->25.4%).

That was about the only area where the Cubs offense improved. They were worse than the 2017 club in:

  • Ground ball %: 45.5->46.0%
  • Soft contact %: 18.5->19.6%
  • BB%: 9.9->9.0%
  • HR/FB ratio: 15.6->12.1%

That home run to fly ball ratio is particularly damning – to me it underlines the results of attempting to make more contact at the expense of sound pitch recognition and plate discipline coupled with an aversion to pulling the ball and a lack of focus on (or maybe distaste for?) launch angle.

The Cubs did cut down on K%, but not to a particularly meaningful degree and it was easily cancelled out by the decrease in BB%.

My earlier piece went went down a list of Cubs who seemed to incorporate this philosophy to their detriment, but it’s basically everyone on the Cubs other than Javy Báez. Everyone else either stood still or took a step back, especially in the power department.

No one stands out more in that sense than Willson Contreras, who went from a fringe MVP candidate to a slap hitter in just one season under Davis. Willson struck out a tick less and went to the opposite field significantly more (20.9->26.6%) at the expense of just about everything that made him such a great piece. Most alarming is a jump from 17.0% to 22.4% (!!!) in Willson’s soft contact percentage.

That just won’t do. Willson is the most extreme and telling example of just how badly Chili’s philosophy didn’t mesh with this group of Cubs, but he’s not the only one. Power dropped across the board for everyone not named Javier Báez, who did not seem to incorporate *any* aspects of Chili’s philosophy into his approach in 2018 as he continued to more or less just be a much better version of the hitter he’s always been.

The Cubs will enter 2019 with their 3rd hitting coach in as many years. Theo spoke at some length of the importance of stability in the coaching staff during his end of season press conference. Here’s hoping they get this one right.

chili davis
Photo from Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune

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