It wasn’t too long ago that Chicago Cubs fans were getting to know Chili Davis, former big league player and the club’s hitting coach during the 2018 season. In 2010, Davis began his tenure as a hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ instructional league team, eventually working his way up to jobs with the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox before joining the Cubs at the beginning of last season.
As the Cubs maintained a winning record and a slight divisional lead at the All-Star break, the offense was doing its part to carry the club. At the break, the Cubs ranked fifth in the majors with 476 runs scored, notching the fourth best wRC-plus and seventh highest slugging percentage.
With that offense, it’s no question as to whether the Cubs could have fended off the Milwaukee Brewers and captured their second straight division title. Instead, their offense “broke” (to use Theo Epstein’s own words), leaving Chicago with a floundering group of hitters down the stretch.
During the second half of 2018, the Cubs fell to 19th in runs scored, 24th in wRC-plus and 27th in slugging percentage, while at the same time hitting the ball on the ground more than any team in baseball post-All-Star break. That lackluster offense shown through in the final few games of the Cubs’ season as they scored a total of three runs in three of their final four contests, including a 2-1, 13-inning Wild Card Game loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Following that defeat in which the Cubs struck out 16 times, many people came to the conclusion that something needed to be done. One of those people was Epstein himself, who on October 11, fired Davis and four days later, appointed Anthony Iapoce to the position of hitting coach.
Iapoce is no stranger to the Cubs organization. From 2013-2015, the former Brewer draft pick served as an assistant to the general manager, primarily tasked with working with young players in the minor leagues, names like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and others.
Iapoce’s familiarity with the Cubs organization and high esteem while a member of the front office staff should make it easy for the young hitters to mesh with their third hitting coach in as many years.
After leaving the Cubs prior to 2016, the 45-year-old served as the Texas Rangers hitting coach, a position he held for three seasons. In that time, the Rangers ranked eighth in the majors in runs scored, ninth in ISO, 13th in slugging percentage and 23rd in wRC-plus. Additionally, Texas ranked toward the middle of the pack in ground ball rate (15th) and fly ball rate (13th) while recording the 24th lowest line drive percentage across that same time span.
Despite winning 95 games, the Cubs front office was obviously not satisfied with getting knocked out of the playoffs less than a week into October. With their offensive talent heading into 2018, the Cubs felt confident they had enough sluggers to break through against top-tier, playoff-caliber pitching. That, however, turned out to not be the case as they carried their second half slump into their one and only playoff game of the season.
Because of that slump, Davis had to go, a voice that one year ago was tabbed as being the one that would take this group to another level. Like so many things in 2018, that did not work as planned and now Iapoce will get a shot to impact this club with his expertise and help the Cubs in their quest for another World Series title.
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