Honestly, I was working on this before last night's game. I thought the Cubs have been patient as a group of hitters, of course outside of last night. And I came to a conclusion, these are not your Father's Cubs and the Cub's hitters will be fine this year.
And bear with me about last year's stats, but I will make a point about this year's team...
We all know how well they did last year with taking advantage of walks(1st) and OBP(1st). The Cubs have not been historically strong in either of those categories.(Yes we have had a couple of years together in the 70's and 80's that have been good, but I'm making a broader point) And they may have done decent with OPS in recent past years because of the S(lugging) and their free swinging ways.
OBP SLG OPS
2008 354(1) 443(1) 797(1)
2007 333(9) 422(8) 754(8)
2006 319(16) 422(10) 741(14)
2005 324(11) 440(2) 764(4)
2004 328(11) 458(2) 786(5)
2003 323(13) 416(11) 739(11)
The highest the Cubs have been in OBP in recent years (through 1997) was 6th place league wise.
I think from watching our Cubs last year was that they were a dangerous team from 1 through 8 (and yes 9 when Z .892 OPS was pitching ).
Soriano .344 .532 .876
Fukudome .359 .379 .738
Lee .361 .462 .823
Ramirez .380 .518 .898
Edmonds .369 .568 .937
DeRosa .376 .481 .857
Soto .364 .504 .868
Theriot .387 .359 .745
Those are some pretty good results right there. This year we have replaced DeRo with Fonty and Edmonds with Bradley.
Look at that OBP for all the regs. Aram added about .020 to his usual OBP. Lee was down and had an off year. Sori's .344 was good for him, but about where he has been the last few years. Edmonds got back some of his old glory with a great year. Soto came out of nowhere and won the ROY. DeRo has been getting better with his patience at the plate in his career. Riot consistently got on base. Dome was great for 2 months and the numbers went into free fall.
But why did these Cubs make this large leap in OBP out of nowhere. Did Lou's philosophy take affect? Did Perry get through to the hitters? Did Dome's approach rub off on the whole team? Whatever the reason, last years Cubs were more than willing to take a walk and clog those bases.
My theory is that last years Cubs were more than willing to not only take a walk but to take any pitch. The Cubs last year were third in the league in pitches per at bat (3.88). They showed a patience I can not remember any Cub's team ever having.
2008 3.88(3rd) P/AB
2007 3.74 (8th)
2006 3.67 (14th)
2005 3.60 (15th)
2004 3.63 (15th)
2003 3.68 (11th)
Now seeing extras pitches doesn't necessarily mean that you will win more games. There is still pitching and defense to consider. And the 2003 team made the playoffs in spite of the P/AB category. (largely because of our pitching staff) But it does certainly help
It not only taxes the starting pitcher, making him throw more pitches. But it also gets us faster into the bullpen of the other team. And it also shows the hitter what kind of stuff the pitcher has to throw. And maybe, hopefully waiting for a pitch you can drive instead of any pitch you can hit. Even tiring out a pitcher so he can make a mistake
There is one individual that I'd like to call attention to and that is Aram. From 2004 - 2007 Arams Pitches/AB were 3.62, 3.62, 3.71, 3.66. Pretty level there. Then last year his Pitches/AB jumped to 4.03. Quite a large spike for one year. And the funny thing about Aram's year was his OPS .898 was lower than his 4 previous seasons (.915, .912, .926, .951). But I don't think anyone would say Aram had a bad year, in fact I would say that I would welcome a slight drop in slugging for an increase in OBP and the pitches/AB.
So that gets me into this year's team,(finally) I know it's only May but as a team they are continuing on with last year's good eyes. The Cubs are averaging 3.97 (3rd) pitches/AB and have a .339 OBP (7th). The league average is 3.84 for pitches/AB.
2009 Cubs starters 2008 Cubs
Sori 3.84 Sori 3.73
Riot 3.77 Riot 3.75
Dome 4.27 Dome 4.29
Aram 4.19 Aram 4.03
Bradley 4.29 Edmonds 4.17
Lee 3.94 Lee 3.95
Soto 4.12 Soto 3.98
Fonty 4.34 DeRo 3.89
Now the extra pitches haven't made Soto, Fonty, Lee and Bradley hit any better. But particularly with Lee and Bradley, they have a track record and their OBP will get back to their career norms. I am worried about Fonty and Soto but they have shown patience at the plate and they should at least do better than they've done so far. And with our OBP at .339 as a team and with 4 starters being considerably below what they should do, I would say the Cubs hitters will be okay this year.
Now we may have been sporadic at times with our offense, but I for one am pleased with the overall approach that our hitters have shown so far this year. You can have those free swinging Cubs of years past, I love the new approach. Keep up the good work Cubbies.