How the Chicago Cubs’ aggressive approach to base-running — ‘chasing the limits’ — paid off

The Chicago Cubs needed a ninth inning rebound, and catcher Wilson Contreras saw an opportunity.

Contreras went from first to third base in a two-out Ian Happ single at Petco Park on Tuesday to push the tie to 90 feet from home. Although Frank Schwindel’s fly-out wall ended up in a loss to the San Diego Padres after Patrick Wisdom was hit at base, like Contreras Such runs have become a staple of the Cubs’ offense.

“It’s going to be part of some of the risks we’re going to take this season, we’re just trying to maximise the areas where we can take chances,” manager David Rose said this week. “For us to compete, we have to do a little bit more and take some opportunities in certain areas. … The guys are doing a great job pushing the envelope.”

The Cubs have been one of the best teams to get an extra base. Their 52% Extra Base Percentage (XBT%) ranks third among majors, well above the 43% average. Cubs runners who have advanced to third or scored 23 times have tied for second in those situations.

For an offense that averaged 2.75 possessions over the past 20 games, excluding the 21-game outlier against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs could make better use of runners hitting time. Relying on contact to generate movement makes cashing out even more important when the batter hits base. Coming into their weekend series against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, 30 percent of Cubs runners scored on arrival; the MLB average was 31 percent.

First base coach Mike Naples took on the running responsibilities of his duties. Although Napoli was a catcher, he was known for his excellent bases during his 12-year MLB career. He recalled how the organization prioritized running bases after the Los Angeles Angels drafted him. If players don’t perform well on the base path, they don’t make it to the major leagues.

Napoli have always been proud of his field of play. In the minors, he got more chances on the bases to figure out where he could get extra bases. So, when he was first called up in 2006, Napoli already knew his basic running strengths and skills.

Part of the Naples and Cubs’ running teaching process includes emphasizing smart play or when someone makes a mistake, whether it’s from their team or their opponent. It provides concrete examples of what the Cubs want from their base runners. Good running technique also helps third base coach Willie Harris decide in the game when to send a runner home.

“I’m a big guy, not the fastest, but I’m trying to explain to these people that it’s just anticipation, knowing the game, knowing the situation and thinking about getting 90 feet because 90 feet can win you a baseball game,” Napoli told the forum newspaper. “We won the playoffs when I was on the court because someone was 90 feet over. The importance of that has gone a little bit in today’s game.

“A lot of people have been through the minor leagues, been in the minor leagues for two years, and then they’ve been in the majors. … It’s kind of hard trying to teach it at the major league level because it’s all important.

Cubs players appreciate the base-running work Napoli is doing behind the scenes. He watches videos trying to find any edge. He wants players to have as much information as possible in order to internalize these momentary decisions. The intelligence contained in a qualifier scouting report on opposing outfielders includes arm strength, how each outfielder moves toward the ball and who they can run to.

“You’re going to keep going until they stop you — until they protect the ball and shut you down and you’re ‘yes’ until the last second,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said. “If they’re wobbly, I want to be the next bag.

“That style of play, we have some very athletic guys who can run and that’s how we get the most points by being aggressive on the basic path. Every chance we get is going to be aggressive, And trying to put pressure on the defense on the outside.”

Contreras has been one of the Cubs’ most successful offensive runners while limiting turnovers. He led the team to seven bases, including a triple or a scoring triple. Wisdom and Seiya Suzuki were second with four.

The Cubs’ aggression has its downsides at times. They made too many running mistakes. The Cubs’ 13 outs (OOB) are tied for third in the majors. These do not include theft, theft or forced eviction. It happened five times at second base (tied for first) and four times at third base (tied for second).

Striking a balance between smart offense and on-base responsibility is the middle ground the Cubs are trying to navigate.

“It’s important to get the players moving, especially when we’re putting the ball on the ground,” Rose said. “As long as we have more contact, we can get more action on the base, which will help us more Stay away from double play.”


US News.

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