Peter Gammons makes a case today that MLB executives are starting to compromise on their demand for OBP. That is, they will trade some OBP for the increasingly even more coveted slugging element within the game.
The type of both high OBP and slugging offensive juggernauts Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer put together in Boston may not be possible any longer, as the game is changing.
Gammons gives some examples:
What is interesting is how teams that not long ago looked the other way from hitters who had on-base percentages in the low .300’s will now accept the tradeoff to get power. So Nelson Cruz only has a .333 on base? He’s also leading the majors with 39 homers. Adam Jones is a free swinger with a .315 on base?
There are only 14 other hitters with 25 home runs. Houston lives with Chris Carter’s .313 on base and the strikeouts because of 36 homers, the Orioles miss Chris Davis’s threat of 26 homers even if he’s a .300 OBP guy, and while Yoenis Cespedes may be a .300 on base hitter, the Red Sox felt they needed his power in the middle of their lineup.
The MLB average OBP has dropped nearly 20 points in five years, and slugging 31 points. When it comes to the apparent disappearance of PED’s, the increase of high-velocity bullpens, and a reinforced strike zone, it’s becoming more evident that power is going by the wayside.
This is where the Cubs could factor in huge. They seemed to have cornered the market on young power bats.
The type of lineup the Cubs are building for next year and for years to come will likely feature power upon power. As far as the OBP goes, there may be a bit of a fall off from the lineups of the Red Sox heyday we saw constructed under this regime.
Yet, this front office knows what they have and they are willing to accept the flaws that will come with it.
“Strikeouts with power can be OK,” Hoyer said.
“With that, the strikeout numbers will get better. But I’d be surprised if you’re looking at our players going forward that we didn’t have some strikeouts but also a lot of power.”
I also happened to take note when Hoyer mentioned this team would at least require OBP at the top to set up the meat of the order, the power hitters. OBP still holds much value, especially placed in the right spots.
“There has to be a real focus to find some guys that can get on base,” said Hoyer. “If they can be left-handed, that would be great. Because our guys are predominately right-handed. A left-handed bat that can get on base or any bat that can get on base.”
“Our power is fantastic. We are going to hit a lot of home runs. We’ve got to make sure we turn those into two or three run homers. Solo shots don’t win. We are really going to have to make sure we find some guys that can get on base.”
There has been some speculation that players like Javy Baez or Starlin Castro don’t exactly fit this front office’s profile due to their lack of on-base skills. Apparently, Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler project to be the only regulars for now with.
However, Hoyer knows the game is different and has mentioned time and time again that they aren’t trying to put together a cookie-cutter lineup. Not everyone throughout the lineup can possess the same skill set.
When it comes to players like Baez in particular, this is where the Cubs see the upside of 30-home-run potential instead of his high strikeout profile and lack of on-base skills. Especially within he current climate of the game.
“I still think if the strikeouts come with some power and production, it’s one thing,” Hoyer said. “But you definitely see some guys with low power and high strikeouts. It’s a deadly combination.”
With the high demand for power, the Cubs could be building the kind of lineup that will be hard to reckon with, whether they are down with OBP, or not.