Cubs offense surging, but hitting coach has suggestions
The Cubs don't have much reason to complain about the lack of offense in Major League Baseball these days.
They started the season in a historically bad hitting slump and had a team batting average of .216 by the end of April, and that was after it rose a few dozen points.
In May, the Cubs hit .263, which was tops in the National League, third-best in the majors behind Toronto and Houston.
The Cubs have gone 21-8 since May 1 and opened a four-game series late Thursday night in San Francisco, which started the day with the NL's best record at 34-21.
The Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Joc Pederson ripped a 2-run homer over the wall and into the McCovey Cove area of San Francisco Bay. In his first at-bat, Pederson was robbed of a home run by Giants center fielder Steven Duggar.
On Sunday, Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce was asked if he had any suggestions for how to make things easier on hitters in this era of high strikeouts and hard- throwing pitchers.
"I've got chapters of what we could do to help the offense," Iapoce said. "I would love to see the shift moved over. You get tired of watching left-handed hitters line out to short right-center field, that hit the ball extremely hard, 100 miles per hour.
"Finding a way to keep the infielders on the infield -- because that's what they are, they're infielders -- and keeping the outfielders in the outfield."
An easy counter argument about the shift is just hit the ball to all fields and teams will stop shifting. But Iapoce had a response ready.
"I think it's not that hitters don't want to hit singles," he said. "It's really hard to go the other way. I know everybody thinks, 'Hey, just go the other way.' But when the ball's coming in 95-100 and the ball's moving and the player tries to go the other way and he misses a pitch down the middle because he's late and he hits a foul ball, they kind of get upset about that because they're trying to do something really hard.
"If a guy's throwing 90, 92, I can scoop a ball and go the other way. So players get frustrated with that. The only way to beat the shift is to try and drive it oppo gap or hit it over the shift into the outfield."
One of the key hits in Sunday's victory over San Diego was a 2-run double by Anthony Rizzo, who went the other way and sent a line drive to left-center field. After the game, Rizzo was asked if he's tried to do that more often this season.
"I just want to hit the ball as hard as I can every time," Rizzo said. "I think when I go to left-center like that, it's a product of me not trying to do too much and trying to pull the ball or hit a home run. Just take what they give you."
According to Iapoce, it's not that hitters are swinging for the fences every time, even those it looks that way sometimes.
"I think players love hits. It makes their day better. But it gets complicated," Iapoce said. "You see with KB (Kris Bryant) the last couple of years. You train your whole life through the middle and the gaps and now there's people standing there. So you have to rewire your brain and now you're trying to do that against the best pitching on the planet, which is a tough adjustment.
"Those are the two things with the shift and lowering the (strike) zone a little bit. Those are two things I think can be adjusted."
On the mend:
Injured Cubs outfielders Jake Marisnick and Jason Heyward played the second game of rehab assignments for Triple A Iowa. Heyward homered against Omaha. Marisnick double in Wednesday's game, while pitcher Alec Mills threw 6 scoreless innings.