CHICAGO — After a season in which the offense collapsed in the second half, the Chicago Cubs fired hitting coach Chili Davis on Thursday, the club announced.
Under Davis’ watch, Cubs hitters saw a notable drop in production, especially in power, where they dropped from near the top of the league in home runs in 2017 to 11th this season in the NL.
“He worked his tail off to make guys better,” team president Theo Epstein said of Davis last week. “In that respect he did everything that we asked of him.”
But the offense faltered down the stretch, scoring just one run in three of the team’s final four games, including Game No. 163 for the NL central division title and then again the next night in the wild-card game. The Cubs lost both games.
The team ranked first in team OPS in the first half, posting a .771 mark that was in line with last season’s production, but that fell to .705 after the All-Star break, good for 10th in the NL.
“Our offense broke somewhere along the lines,” Epstein said. “Of course there is going to be a thorough examination.”
Davis’ firing came after exit meetings between the front office and players as well as two sit-downs with Davis. He was hired after the Cubs fired former coach John Mallee, who guided hitters for the previous three seasons, including 2016, when the team won the World Series.
Mallee brought out the power in many Cubs hitters, with “launch angle” becoming a key phrase around the team. But they struggled in situational moments, which was thought to be Davis’ strength. In fact, the team said they fired Mallee in order to hire one guy, and one guy only: Davis.
“Chili really has a good method regarding situations in general,” manager Joe Maddon said when Davis was hired. “I was on the staff when he was a player, and even then I thought he’d be a great coach. I like his methods. I like what he says and how he says it beyond theory. I’m talking about practicality, reality, the kind of things I think he can do in-game besides just the work. He has a great message, and he’s very good at delivering the message.”
The Cubs slightly improved from 2017 to 2018 in getting a man home from third with less than two outs, ranking 20th this season after finishing 28th in 2017. But the drop in power combined with the second-half collapse most likely did Davis in. The Boston Red Sox also had a precipitous drop in power when Davis was their hitting coach until the end of 2017.
The Cubs did lead the NL in opposite field hits this year, something Maddon was seeking more of. Also, Davis might not have connected with Cubs players in the same way Mallee did, according to a source close to the situation.
“We weren’t looking to sacrifice power and walks in exchange for ground balls and opposite filed hits,” Epstein said. “But in the second half that’s what the results were. That’s not what we’re looking for.”
The Cubs have not made any announcements about other coaches on the staff and haven’t indicated a timetable to replace Davis.