In the spirit of 2015, I have set some New Year’s resolutions for myself. I am in that 1% of people who really stuck with their resolution for 2014, so I’m hopeful that things can go well for me this year as well. After resolving to lose 60 lbs last year, I made it two-thirds of the way and lost 40. Maybe this year I’ll resolve to lose that last 20.
Self-improvement has always been a passion of mine, and doing some soul-searching over what I can change to be better in 2015 brought me to an interesting thought. What can the Cubs do differently in 2015 to make themselves better?
Of course, this is kind of a simple thought. They could be better at baseball. But how do they accomplish that, both on the field and in the organization? They’ve been so good at improving the overall functions of the team the last few years that it really took some digging to think of what resolutions the Cubs should hold themselves to this year.
And so here are my three New Year’s resolutions for the Cubs in 2015.
Stop making negative headlines
If you look back, you may remember that the Cubs as an organization made some headlines in 2014. Several of those were bad, even if they weren’t necessarily the Cubs’ fault. Losing out on Masahiro Tanaka, the whole cake fiasco, the inability to reach a deal with Jeff Samardzija before finally giving up and dealing him to Oakland, Starlin Castro, and the weekly bile concocted by the crew at the Sun-times.
The Cubs’ first resolution should be fewer negative headlines this year. They’ve had a good start the last few months, with Joe Maddon and Jon Lester. I don’t know what news the next few months will bring, but hopefully the players, coaches, management, and ownership will do everything they can to make sure it’s positive. And even if Tom Ricketts wants to say they can win the World Series in 2015, I might be more inclined to believe him this time.
Get a conclusion to the rooftop story
The battle with the rooftop owners has been going on so long that I sometimes forget about this storyline altogether. The Wrigley Field renovation is finally underway and the business owners have faded to the background. They never filed a lawsuit against the Cubs, probably because they know they don’t have much hope of stopping the team from putting up signs to block out their views.
There have been rumors of the Cubs buying out the rooftops, and that would be a good move for the team. Not only would the nightmare fight finally be over, as the city has been completely on board with the renovation, but the Cubs would have total control over their domain. As an added bonus, it means helping with the above resolution. So I’m asking that the Cubs resolve to end all the drama with their neighbors, regardless of the outcome.
Make better contact at the plate
I’m pulling out the big guns now. If one of these resolutions were the “lose 60 lbs” of the list, this is the one. The 2014 Cubs struck out 1,477 times as a team (120 of those K’s were from pitchers, for what it’s worth), falling just short of the MLB team record of 1,535, set by the 2013 Houston Astros. But a lot of those Cubs are either gone or only played in a portion of the season.
Just for the sake of comparison, if we were to build a lineup based on the players we can assume will be getting the majority of the at-bats in 2015, the numbers could be downright scary. Using career strikeout averages based on 162 games, plus Kris Bryant and his 26.6% MiLB K-rate for a portion of the season, I put together some projected numbers.
Alcantara, Baez, Soler, Bryant (projected at 550 plate appearances), Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Montero, and the pitcher spot (assuming they strikeout 120 times again) project at 1,298 strikeouts. Granted, that leaves out the still-undetermined last spot in the lineup, as well as any bench guys.
In short, that’s a ton of K’s. Of course, we shouldn’t expect that Javier Baez is going to strike out 296 times next year. I’d like to assume that he will perform better, and even if he doesn’t I know he’ll find his way to the bench. This exercise wasn’t so much to predict future numbers as it was to illustrate a point.
And that point is that the ball isn’t put into play nearly enough by this group. They will always have some level of sacrifice in the contact column in favor of power, and in general that’s fine. But it does need to improve from where it is now. I don’t know what specifically the coaching staff should focus on to fix the problem, but to have success next year, the contact rates need to be a little bit better.
These goals are not only appropriate for 2015, but I really think they’re attainable as well. It seems like the Cubs are on their way to making more positive headlines, and the fact that the renovation is underway means a conclusion to the battle with the rooftop owners could be right around the corner. If the Cubs can meet the goals that I’ve set for them in the upcoming year, I think it will be a happy New Year indeed.