CHICAGO – Two hours before the Cubs and White Sox faced off for the first time this season, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer lamented his team’s inability to reach base.
It’s not a new problem for the Cubs, and their South Side rivals endure the same issue – a failure to draw walks. The Sox rank 29th in walks with 121, and the Cubs are even worse, dead last in the majors with 116. That’s not exactly a recipe for a potent offense.
“As an organization, Theo [Epstein] and I strongly believe you can’t be a good team if you don’t get on base and grind out at-bats,” Hoyer said. “If we’re not going to do that, we’re going to have to spend a lot of time figuring it out because we’re not going to be successful until we do.”
The Cubs must have listened in on Hoyer’s pre-game spiel. They drew three walks, leading to two runs, in a 7-0 win against the Sox on Monday at U.S. Cellular Field. The Cubs’ displayed better patience at the plate, forcing Sox starter Jose Quintana to throw 95 pitches in six innings. Ultimately, the Cubs (20-30) averaged 3.7 pitches per at-bat and had only one at-bat which resulted in a first pitch out.
“When you’re grinding out at-bats, you’re grinding out quality at-bats,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Sometimes we get confused with always needing a hit instead of grinding it out and having a quality at-bat.”
The Sox (24-25) continued their struggles at the plate. Jeff Samardzija threw a complete-game shutout on 108 pitches, holding the Sox to two hits. Samardzija’s strategy centered on attacking the aggressive Sox hitters.
“I knew coming into the game they were going to be aggressive early in the count, they’re an aggressive fastball hitting team,” Samardzija said. “I knew it was going to come down to location on that pitch and I had some good location early in the count and got some quick outs. It really allowed me to kind of hold off my off-speed stuff until later in the game.”
Sixteen of the 30 Sox batters he faced had at-bats that lasted three pitches or less.
“You just tip your hat to him,” Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. “He was dominant.”
One game doesn’t boost or ruin either team’s bad on-base percentage. Again the Cubs and Sox rank among the worst in baseball, sitting 26th and 28th, respectively, in that category. For either team to have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 – whether it be this season or next – better approaches at the plate must consistently happen.
“The most important part of OPS is on-base percentage. That part of the equation is something we’re not doing,” Hoyer said. “You don’t see a lot of multirun homers we’re hitting. We struggle to string along an inning together.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.