(CBS) Much consternation has been shared over the Cubs’ struggles to hit with runners in scoring position this season, a trend that has sometimes featured aggressive approaches — or over-aggressive, some would say — by hitters.
Entering play Thursday, the Cubs were hitting .247 with runners in scoring position, a mark that ranked 24th of the 30 MLB teams. One theory of thought is that the Cubs may be too focused on the power aspect and too reliant on homers, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein downplayed that idea in an interview with Brian Hanley and Joe Ostrowski on 670 The Score on Thursday morning.
“I guess you technically could be, theoretically you could be,” Epstein said. “But it’s usually just a narrative. When you watch a whole baseball season, you always notice when a team doesn’t produce base hits with runners in scoring position. It’s one of the most frustrating things as a fan, and it leaves like a little scar, a little notch on the belt of your psyche. You don’t forget those things, and when you have too many of those little emotional nicks over the course of a couple weeks or a couple months, you really notice it and you start to get down on your team and you feel like it’s something wrong with our DNA, that we’re just not the type of team that can hit with runners in scoring position. When you are hitting with runners in scoring position, you tend not to notice it as much. You just think your guys are playing great and you’re high-fiving and you look at the team through the lens where everyone’s playing really well.
“For the most part, if you’re not hitting with runners in scoring position, a common refrain is you’re too reliant on the long ball. I want us to be as long ball-ish as we can be. I think the more home runs you hit, the better. Even in October, if you look at it, the conventional wisdom is you become more reliant on small ball and execution and you have to, because when you don’t, those things can cost you games. And that’s unacceptable. But the percentage of home runs that are hit and the percentage of home runs that determine games is just as significant if not more so in October.
“We need to do better executing with runners on third base and less than two outs. We need to do everything we can to lock in a consistent approach with runners in scoring position and use that whole field, but by and large, those things even out. Especially the runners in scoring position tends to even out over the course of a season. You just don’t notice it as much when it’s going your way.”