Chicago Cubs: Chili Davis out as hitting coach in inevitable move

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images /

The Chicago Cubs dismissed hitting coach Chili Davis on Thursday, one year into his tenure with the team.

It came to little surprise that the Chicago Cubs decided to part ways with hitting coach Chili Davis after just signing with the club during the 2017 off-season. Under the Davis regime, Cubs hitters saw a noteworthy drop in production across several key statistical categories. Most notably, the team’s HR production dipped the most, from being ranked 9th in the league in 2017 (223 HR) down to 22nd in 2018 (167 HR).

Despite a successful hitting career, the front office was left to question how well Davis’ hitting style fit with the young power-hitting core they had built and developed over the previous three seasons.

However, it wasn’t character that was an issue with Davis, as Theo Epstein pointed out in his end of the season press conference last week.

"“He worked his tail off to make guys better,” team president Theo Epstein said of Davis last week. “In that respect he did everything that we asked of him.”"

Nonetheless, it isn’t character that equates to production in the big leagues. Davis is well known for his hitting methodology of line drives to all areas of the field. Even Theo stressed that line drives are far more productive than ground balls. In addition to stressing line drives, Chili accentuates the need to score more runs by improving plate approach, especially with runners in scoring position.

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However, the Cubs production, especially during the second half of the season, represented a polar opposite result to Chili’s core hitting values. As a collective unit, the Cubs were unable to swing at better pitches or drive in runners in scoring position. They weren’t able to lift the ball either, increasing their ground ball rate by nearly half a percent from 2017.

Other notable statistical regressions include an increase in outside the zone swing rate, overall swing percent, and a decrease in contact percentage. Most alarming, the Cubs wOBA with RISP dropped nearly 20 points from 2017, explaining the struggle to consistently put together runs for any lengthy stretch of games.

The final straw came when the team could only muster up one run in three of the team’s final four games, including Game 163 for the NL Central Division title and then again the next night in the wild-card game.

The Cubs front office rolled the dice with the hiring of Chili Davis last off-season, especially following the successes that the offense had exhibited under previous hitting coach John Mallee during their 2016 World Series run. They wanted their new hitting instructor to stress plate approach and situational hitting, which they lacked during their 2017 NLCS run.

Ultimately, the experiment proved to be a complete and utter disaster, aside from a few key players shining under Davis’ leadership (Javier Baez and Jason Heyward). The solution is not a clear cut one, as the Cubs have talented players that have shined in seasons past.

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I would go out on a limb in saying that the front office will look for a candidate with major-league experience, maybe a former slugger (cough cough Manny Ramirez), that can dust off the power potential that this team has in the tank.