That lesson involves Josh Hader, who has absolutely dominated the Cubs, both through the 2019 season and his career.
This year, Cubs batters hit .033/.094/.033 (1-for-30) against Hader with two walks and 15 strikeouts. That’s the worst OPS (.127) against Hader for any team he faced more than once in 2019.
For his career, Cubs batters have hit .094/.163/.125 (9-for-96) against Hader with eight walks and 47 strikeouts. That’s the worst lifetime OPS (.171) against Hader for any team he’s faced more than five times. (The Cubs have faced him 17 times.)
So how did the Nationals put together their winning rally against Hader?
They waited him out. Waited him out! He issued a walk, hit a batter, and even with the two strikeouts he issued, the batters ran long counts against Hader.
Seems simple, but other teams have done this. He has a career 3.2 per nine inning walk rate. That’s pretty good, but it does show teams don’t have to go to the plate and be 100 percent aggressive against Hader. He threw only 14 strikes in his 30 pitches Tuesday evening. Look where the pitch that hit Michael A. Taylor was located. [VIDEO]
The Cubs got away from patience at the plate over the last couple of seasons. Here are their season walk totals under Joe Maddon:
After setting a franchise record with 656 walks in 2016, that number has declined over the last three seasons. Part of that is, of course, having some different players. But part of it could also be a changed approach, or the changes in hitting coaches, or both. Cubs team OBP over the last five seasons:
The Cubs face Josh Hader quite a bit being in the same division with him. They ought to take a lesson from what the Nats did in the Wild Card Game. It’s probably not a coincidence that Dave Martinez was the Cubs bench coach during the seasons above where they walked more often and that he’s now the Nationals manager. The Nats increased their walk total from 487 in Martinez’ first year managing in Washington to 584 this year.
So there’s your lesson, Chicago Cubs, and for whoever the new manager is, about Josh Hader. Wait. Him. Out. ... and good things can follow.