"Ideally," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer told The Athletic in December, "we need fewer strikeouts, some better decision-making, better contact rates."
Fewer strikeouts. Sounds good. In theory. If you're looking for more balls in play, the 2021 Cubs might be your team ... for better, or, perhaps, worse.
Let's explain. Chicago's offense had the fourth-highest strikeout rate in baseball in 2020, which became the focal point of a dreadfully underwhelming lineup. While Hoyer was clearly talking about his hitters, he had a pretty effective strikeout pitching staff (ninth-highest strikeout rate), too. Cubs games featured lots of strikeouts. No ballpark, for example, saw more called strikes and swing-and-misses than the 2,926 that happened at Wrigley Field.
So the Cubs made some moves. Gone is Kyle Schwarber, and his 28% career strikeout rate. Gone are bit players Billy Hamilton, José Martínez, Steven Souza and Jason Kipnis, who combined for a 34% strikeout rate in limited time. But also gone is starter Yu Darvish, who had the seventh-most strikeouts in the Majors last year, and Tyler Chatwood, who had a 29% strikeout rate, and really any starter who throws hard.