After just one year on the job, the Cubs fired hitting coach Chili Davis. The club announced his replacement on Monday, Anthony Iapoce, who had been the Rangers’ hitting coach for the past three seasons.
The Cubs’ offense regressed in 2018, particularly in the second half. In the first half, they slashed .265/.345/.426. That fell to .249/.316/.389 in the second half. In August, the Cubs’ offense posted a .766 OPS, but it fell to .728 in August and .663 in September/October.
Per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Davis doesn’t feel like he shoulders much of the blame for the Cubs’ lack of performance during his tenure. Davis said, “I guess I need to make some adjustments in the way I deliver my message to the millennial players now. I need to make those adjustments for the next job I get, if there is one. But without losing my identity. Because I know what I know. And I know what I bring is not wrong. I’m not going to blame myself for this. I’m not going to blame anyone. It didn’t work.”
Davis added, “I learned a lot this year. I learned that the next situation I get in, before I say yes to a job, I need to make sure I know the personnel I’ll be dealing with in the clubhouse. I hope that the next guy connects better with the players, because I felt that there were multiple players there I didn’t connect with. It wasn’t that I didn’t try. It just wasn’t there.”
It’s certainly true that, sometimes, people get put in situations where the chemistry just isn’t there and it doesn’t work. That might have been the case with the Cubs. But Davis also seems like he’s not willing to take any of the responsibility for the lack of success with the Cubs’ offense. He passive aggressively mentions altering his message to reach millennial players. Plenty of managers and coaches have been able to bridge the generation gap, including plenty that are older than the 58-year-old Davis. The successful coaches are willing to sit down and learn the language to have a better ability to communicate with the players.
Davis said of Iapoce, “Hopefully, he has better success at this than I did. But regardless of who’s there, certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments, because the game’s changed, and pitchers are pitching them differently. They’re not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They’re pitching away from that. They’re going to have to make that adjustment whether I’m there or not.”
Davis makes the point that baseball strategy ebbs and flows and evolves, just like any game strategy. Pitchers aren’t “pitching to launch angles” because they have identified that many hitters were swinging with more of an uppercut which led to more offensive success. Pitchers responded by pitching higher in the strike zone. He clearly didn’t say, but it sounds like Davis might have offered advice to a player (or players) who with this aspect of baseball’s metagame and that player (or players) wasn’t willing to make any mechanical adjustments. And that would be frustrating as a hitting coach. Whatever the case, both parties have accepted the opportunity to move on.