By Adam Harris-
(CBS) “In Theo we trust.”
This is the mantra Cubs fans blindly followed this past offseason and into opening day at Wrigley Field.
“In Theo we trust, in Theo we trust,” on repeat as a rocky start caused many Cubs fans to tune out early.
The Cubs lost 12 of their first 16 games, and did so by making many errors, haphazardly throwing the ball around and watching their opponents take extra base after extra base. Their bullpen blew leads, and there were so many base running blunders I started to double check my blind following of Theo Epstein.
Then the Cubs traded Marlon Byrd, and the Cardinals came to town. The Cubs won two games in come-from-behind, walk-off fashion and secured the first series victory of the Epstein tenure.
It was just a series win, but it was a start and it gave reason for Cubs fans who turned their interest off early to turn it right back on. Ever since then, the Cubs have won nine of 15 and have done so playing “The Cub Way.”
During Cubs President Theo Epstein’s initial press conference, he mentioned “The Cub Way.” There were pamphlets printed and handed out to everyone in the organization giving details of this new “Cub Way.”
It took a little less than a month to see what Epstein was talking about, but the recent Cubs success has not been out of pure luck, but rather from a different way of playing baseball.
This brand of baseball relies heavily on solid starting pitching, timely hitting, but mostly by playing a smart, fundamentally strong game.
Sabermetrics, or “moneyball” is a concept of maximizing the talent available for the money you have. This, along with scouting, is what Theo Epstein uses as his base for “The Cub Way.”
Bryan LaHair is a key example of this. He is hitting .384, which ranks third in baseball, and has a OPS of 1.243, also ranking third in the MLB. LaHair is behind Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp in each of these categories, two superstars of the game today. He also ranks seconds in runs created per 27 Outs at 12.43, right behind Josh Hamilton.
These are superstar numbers for Bryan LaHair who has never shown to be as purely talented as the likes of Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton. So the question is, how is he doing this?
The answer lies in “The Cub Way.” He does this by working counts, seeing a lot of pitches and THINKING at the plate.
LaHair currently ranks 12th in the majors, seeing 4.23 pitches per plate appearance. That also comes to seventh in the National League.
His patience wears a pitcher down. More pitches are thrown, and the pitcher is more likely to make a mistake. This not only helps LaHair, but it helps the team immensely as the game moves on.
Imagine if the entire team were to do this?
In a year where the Cubs are most likely going to finish last, or damn close to it, I am looking for any reason to watch. The past 15 games, and Bryan LaHair’s impact, have shed light to a long process of climbing to the top of the NL Central.
Watch for little “Cub Way” things and you will be happy to find the Cubs are slowly making their way to where Theo Epstein wants. A World Series contender.