Chicago Cubs new additions provide needed contact skills at top of order


The Chicago Cubs new free agent additions should shore up some areas that they struggled with at the plate last season.

According to, during the 2015 regular season the Chicago Cubs finished 28th in the MLB in total hits, 12th in on-base percentage and first in total strikeouts. The recent additions of veteran free agents Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist should help this team put the bat on the ball and/or get on base more frequently in 2016.

The 34-year-old Zobrist signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent last Tuesday on a 4-year contract valued at $56 million. Three days later, Heyward followed suit and signed for $184 million over 8 years.

In 2015, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist finished 37th and 34th respectively in the MLB in on-base percentage (out of 141 qualified players according to The Cubs now have four players that finished in the top 40 in on-base percentage in 2015 (Heyward, Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant). Heyward (90 strikeouts) and Zobrist (30 strikeouts) combined for less strikeouts in 2015 than the individual totals of Bryant, Dexter Fowler, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler.

Additionally, both players can help the Chicago Cubs with clutch hitting; another area where they struggled last season. According to baseball reference, Cubs hitters slashed .236/.338/.376 with runners in scoring position. With two outs and runners in scoring position, they slashed .211/.333/.332. According to ESPN writer Jesse Rogers, the Chicago Cubs only advanced runners home on a league-worst 41 percent of chances when a runner was at third base with less than two outs.

The additions of Heyward and Zobrist should help the Cubs out in the clutch department as well. In 2015, Heyward slashed .264/.359/.349 and Zobrist slashed .250/.360/.370 with runners in scoring position.

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Last season, the Chicago Cubs lack of contact hitting ultimately led to their early postseason exit. They slashed .204/.276/.412 in the postseason and collected 85 total strikeouts.

The Cubs scored 32 total runs in the playoffs and 23 of those runs (71.9 percent) resulted from a home run. For comparison purposes, only 48 percent of the New York Mets runs came from home runs in the playoffs while the Kansas City Royals scored a minuscule 21.3 percent of their runs from home runs. Ultimately, relying on home runs for their offense wasn’t a sustainable way for the Cubs to continue to win games in the playoffs. The addition of guys like Heyward and Zobrist, two players who don’t hit a lot of home runs but do get on base frequently, should help with this problem.

October 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) hits a two run home run in the eighth inning against the New York Mets in game four of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs lineup projects as deadly for the 2016 season. They have a great combination of guys with on-base skills at the top of the order, power guys in the middle and a balanced back-end with guys that still project as dangerous hitters.

  1. Jason Heyward                        .293/.359/.439 in 2015
  2. Ben Zobrist                               career .265/.355/.431
  3. Anthony Rizzo                         31 home runs in 2015
  4. Kris Bryant                               26 home runs and 99 RBIs in 2015
  5. Kyle Schwarber                       .487 slugging percentage in 2015
  6. Jorge Soler                               .262/.324/.399 in 2015
  7. Miguel Montero                     10-year MLB veteran, career .262 hitter
  8. Pitcher
  9. Addison Russell                      .259/.318/.427 during the second half of the season

The great thing about both Heyward and Zobrist is that they are so talented that they can address multiple needs at once.

Heyward drastically improves the Chicago Cubs outfield defense while adding a new dimension to their running game with his base-stealing abilities. Zobrist brings veteran leadership and defensive versatility. The constant is that both players bring reliable, contact-oriented hitting to the top of the order. This is something that the Chicago Cubs lacked last season and this ultimately contributed to their elimination in the playoffs.

Next: Cubs looking to add a center fielder

Can the Chicago Cubs consistently hit with runners in scoring position? Can they string together consecutive hits in the playoffs instead of relying on home runs for the majority of their offense?The answer to these question may determine how far the Cubs go next season. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer added both Heyward and Zobrist to the mix this offseason to try to make the answer to both of these questions a definitive yes.