By Bruce Levine —
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs have hit 204 home runs this season, an average of nearly 1.41 per game that paces them to fall just shy of the franchise record of 235 homers set in 2004.
These Cubs boasts a franchise record six players with at least 20 homers — Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Ian Happ and Willson Contreras. The power game supplied by Chicago has been fun to watch, and the team has had its best success with it’s long ball-happy, as you’d expect. The Cubs are 65-36 when they hit at least one homer this year and 45-14 when they hit two or more.
With the playoffs approaching and runs likely to be more difficult to come by, are the Cubs too reliant on the home run?
“That is who we are,” Rizzo said. “We hit home runs. We were a home run team last year as well. We are truthfully better at hitting home runs than we are at manufacturing them with two outs. If we are going to be more consistent, we need to get better at the manufactured run production.”
The Cubs’ 204 homers are already the fourth-most in team history, and their identity isn’t going to change in that regard.
“This is certainly who we are,” Rizzo said. “We are not going up there trying to hit home runs. This is just a by-product of our talent.”
Amid their power surge, the younger Cubs are also still learning to drive the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. Schwarber and Happ are slowly grasping the moment and focusing on supplying the right approach each at-bat.
“It is not easy when you are young to not to try and hit a six-run homer with a favorable count,” Rizzo said. “You learn a different attack mode as you mature in the game. I am still guilty of over-swinging in favorable counts. A single or double is preferable in most situations. Home runs just follow when you understand the method of hitting in the moment.”
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged his young hitters have been reliant on a home run-or-nothing approach. He wants his Cubs to be better at situational hitting.
“It has shown to be that way,” Maddon said. “Moving forward, I would like to continue the process and thought of scoring runs in bunches by using walks, hits and the like. We do rely on it a lot. I can’t deny that. That doesn’t mean you can’t get better in those other areas. We are young and still trying to get these concepts embedded. When you are facing good pitching, you must do other things in order to win games.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.