By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Back on the television series “Home Run Derby” that aired in 1960, announcer Mark Scott used to say it was “a home run or nothing” as big leaguers matched up in what was a precursor to the modern day Home Run Derby we see at the All-Star Game each year.
That slogan could also be the motto for the next T-shirt that Cubs manager Joe Maddon creates this season. The Cubs’ primary path to scoring run in the last six weeks has come via the long ball, and Monday was no different. Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the first inning and Albert Almora’s solo shot in the fourth accounted for all of Chicago’s runs in a 3-1 victory against Miami at Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ fourth straight win.
MLB has gone home run happy this season, as May produced 1,060 homers, the second-highest total ever hit in a month in big league history. For their part, the Cubs have hit 37 homers in their past 24 games, which ties them with the Diamondbacks for the most in baseball since May 9.
So is this a good or bad development? The Cubs are hitting just .215 with runners in scoring position, a mark that ranks last in the National League. The Cubs’ trend right now is to hit the ball out of the park and pass on the conventional ways that teams used to utilize to manufacture a run.
“The approach that is being taught now it is almost back to all or nothing,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “There are not many of the guys per team that can really stay inside of the ball and hit it the other way. Right now, one-to-nine, especially in the American League, you are seeing guys just try to put the ball in the seats.”
The Cubs have have 27 homers in their last 13 games and are 19-5 when they homer two or more times in a game. Bryant leads Chicago with 13 homers.
“It is almost like the NBA with 3-pointers and dunks,” Maddon quipped. “The 15-foot bank shot, the pull-up jumper — the opposite-field hit is just not as prominent as it had been. Stringing singles together, a bunt for a hit, it is just not a part of the landscape right now. If we get the dudes from Freakonomics (the Cubs’ baseball metrics department), we may be able to break it down properly.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.