After offensive struggles, Cubs fire hitting coach Chili Davis
A few years ago, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein joked that the job of hitting coach on the team was a lot like the drummer in the fictional band Spinal Tap.
In other words, it was ever changing.
Things changed again Thursday as the Cubs fired hitting coach Chili Davis after only one year on the job.
The move comes as no surprise. Last week, during his end-of-season meeting with the media, Epstein seemed both disappointed and angry about the poor performance of the Cubs offense this season.
It was just a year ago that manager Joe Maddon engineered a coaching purge that brought his old friend Davis to Chicago at the expense of John Mallee, who oversaw a Cubs offense that produced a world championship in 2016.
Things got off to a decent start for Cubs hitters this season. At the all-star break, they led the National League in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS.
But things went off the rails in the second half, and the Cubs finished fourth in runs scored and 11th in home runs while still leading in average and finishing second in OBP.
"If you look back at the first half of the season, we led the league in virtually every significant offensive category," Epstein said. "And we were cruising We felt really good offensively. We had cut down on our strikeouts. We had sacrificed some power but not all. We were getting on base at a huge clip and scoring a ton of runs.
"In the second half, things were dramatically different. Overall, we had 40 games in which scored zero or 1 run, which is hard to fathom. In the second half, we only had 50 games in which we scored 2 or more runs. Our record in those games, when we got to 2 or more, as 37-13.
"We hit more groundballs in the second half than any other team by a huge margin. Our goal is to hit line drives and flyballs out of the ballpark."
Epstein added: "I've never been a part of something like this offensively, and I never want to be again. We have to be an offensive force. We should be with the talent we have on our roster."
Throughout the season, Maddon repeatedly denigrated the "launch-angle" revolution in baseball (a revolution embrace by Mallee) in favor of an approach that emphasized batters hitting line drives and using the entire field. During his meeting with the media after the Cubs were beaten by Colorado in the wild-card game, Epstein said that launch angle "was not a fad."
At that point, the writing seemed on the wall for Davis.
The Cubs will have more on their coaching staff later this off-season.