Going long with Hoyer on walks and OBP
We’ve got off-and-on rain here at U.S. Cellular Field as the Cubs get set to take on the White Sox. We should get some word today on the status of reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who is scheduled to have an MRI on his right forearm today. The Cubs are calling it a “muscular strain,” but repeated forearm injuries raise red flags about more serious possibilities.
While we’re waiting, let’s do this today. Yesterday, GM Jed Hoyer talked a lot about the Cubs’ lack of walks and the importance of on-base percentage in the OPS equation. We couldn’t get to all of it in the paper, so let’s get to some of it here on the blog.
The Cubs still are last in the National League in walks drawn by their batters, with 116. The Brewers are above them, with 122. In their last four games, however, the Cubs have drawn 15 walks. They’re 12th in the NL in OBP (.300) and eighth in OPS (.708).
In walk percentage, Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo of the Reds are 1-2. Votto is at 18.1 percent and Choo is at 15.8 percent. The Cubs bring up the rear. Alfonso Soriano and Welington Castillo are last among qualifiers at 3.2 percent. Starlin Castro is fifth worst (4.0).
“If you look at the Reds and you look at the Cubs, the hits, the power, aren’t any different,” Hoyer said. “The difference is the walks. They’re second in runs, I believe, and we’re near the bottom. It’s simply a lack of getting on base. It’s something we have to solve collectively. As an organization, Theo (team president Epstein) and I believe strongly you can’t be good team if you don’t get on base, grind out at-bats. If we’re not going to do that, we’re going to spend a lot of time figuring it out because we’re not going to be successful until we do.”
Hoyer was asked about drafting and developing hitters who are patient and with good approaches.
“That’s one of the things we always talk about: Is patience and working a good at-bat, is that something that’s taught? Is that something that’s innate? That’s something we’re certainly going to look for extensively in the draft and internationally, guys that manage an at-bat. But those guys aren’t going to help us right now. We need to figure out the solution on the field. We’re teaching the right things. We’re telling them the right things. I know guys are working hard at it. We need to see improvement there. That’s an area of the season that hasn’t gone the way we wanted to, and we’re going to need to solve that.”
Hoyer also was asked if players at the major-league level can be taught to have better approaches and execute it in games.
“I think it depends on how old the player is to a certain extent,” he said. “I think the guy that hasn’t had a lot of time in the big leagues, I think it’s something they can develop. At some point, you are who you are deep in your major-league career. Certainly, it’s something we have to talk through.
“It’s how you play team offense. Understanding getting pitchers out of the game after the sixth inning. We’re not seeing enough long relievers. We’re not seeing the 11th and 12th guys on the staff enough. If the first two guys make outs on four pitches, the next guy can’t go up and just see two pitches. He has to alter his approach in that at-bat. The team offensive approach has to improve as well because I don’t think we’re seeing enough middle relievers. The good teams do damage against those guys in the middle in the game.”
The Cubs go this way tonight against lefty Chris Sale:
Edwin Jackson (1-7, 6.11) pitches for the Cubs against Sale (5-2, 2.53).
The Cubs say Albert Almora, their No. 1 draft pick from last year, is day to day with a hamstring injury suffered in Monday’s 8-4 victory over Beloit. Almora tweeted that he is OK.
Lefty Michael Heesch got a no-decision as he worked 6 innings and gave up 7 hits and 3 runs while walking one and striking out four. Dan Vogelbach hit his sixth homer, going 3-for-5. He has 32 RBI. Oliver Zapata extended a hit streak to nine game as he went 2-for-4.
Class AAA Iowa lost 4-3 to Oklahoma City. Guillermo Moscoso took the loss. He worked 5 innings and gave up 4 hits and 4 runs (3 earned) while walking four and striking out six. He’s 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA. Brent Lillibridge hit his third homer. Park Ridge’s Brian Schlitter, who has major-league service time with the Cubs, struck out three in 2 scoreless innings. He began the season at Class AA Tennessee, giving up 2 earned runs in 21.2 innings.
“It feels good to be back,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Tommy John surgery caused Schlitter to miss the 2011 season. He appeared in 50 games last year between Class A Daytona and Tennessee.
“It was kind of a rehab year,” Schlitter told the Register. “They wanted me to just stay healthy the entire year.”
Tennessee rallied for a run in the seventh and 2 in the eighth to beat Huntsville 8-6. Matt Loosen got no decision working 6 innings and giving up 8 hits and 4 runs. Ronald Torreyes hit his first homer.
Daytona (A) had the day off.