After orchestrating a blow-up of the Chicago Cubs roster at the 2021 MLB trade deadline, Jed Hoyer and David Ross have plenty of work to do. One of the many changes Hoyer has already made just days after their final game of the season was firing hitting coach Anthony Iapoce after three years with the organization.
Iapoce was the top minor-league hitting coach for the Cubs when Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and many other former Cubs were working their way up to the big leagues. After three years in Texas with the Texas Rangers, the Cubs brought him back to fix a ‘broken’ offense, as former Cub’s president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said when he was hired.
The Cubs have made a lot of confusing decisions and statements lately, including that they plan to spend money in free agency, despite refraining from that since signing Yu Darvish before the 2018 season. The shocking part is that the Cubs’ offense had their fair share of solid performances in the last two months, despite blowing up the roster.
The Chicago Cubs finished a rough 71-91 season, but had a few bright spots along the way, from some unsung heroes.
Now fan-favorite Frank Schwindel had an unbelievable and stunning rookie year, albeit in two months. Schwindel slashed .342/.389/.613 with a 1.002 OPS, 13 homers, and a 16-36 walk to strikeout ratio, on his way to winning being named the August and September NL rookie of the month. But Patrick Wisdom struggled over the final two months, Willson Contreras had an off-year, riddled by injury, Jason Heyward couldn’t hit anything it seemed, but overall the offense wasn’t the biggest issue.
It’s easy to blame the hitting coach, but when a front office has had nearly as many hitting coaches as they have had years with an organization, something else is wrong. The players are partially at fault, but most of the blame should fall on the manager and the front office for not bringing in talent that can help change the atmosphere around a club that was supposed to be a dynasty but never lived up to that. Hoyer still has to hold his season-end press conference, which is expected to be in a few days.
Under Iapoce, the Cubs scored 1784 runs, which is heavily carried by 2019’s offense, scoring 814 runs. Each year, the Cubs’ offense regressed in terms of where they ranked amongst other National League teams in total runs scored. They were 5th in 2019, 10th in 2020, and 11th in 2021.
The team’s OPS shrunk from .810, which was 4th in the NL in 2019, to .705 in 2020, and .740 in 2021, both ranking 10th in the National League. But that .810 in 2019 is actually the highest the Cubs have had in the last decade, including when the team won the 2016 World Series.
It remains to be seen how players will react, as clearly some players, (former or not) had a good relationship with him. When Bryant was traded, it was Iapoce who hugged him in the Nationals’ dugout in a viral video that sent every Cubs fan into an emotional moment.
It’s easy to blame the hitting coach, but at some point, consistency has to exist, and firing Iapoce, while it seems like a solution, might not be the right move, especially as a team looks to rebuild/spend money.
Whatever the Cubs do this off-season, it will be an intriguing one. But firing Iapoce doesn’t seem to make sense, especially when there’s a valid argument that he’s the best hitting coach the team has had in the last 10 years.