In a move that comes as a surprise only in that there had been no real rumblings about it, Anthony Iapoce is reportedly being replaced as the Cubs hitting coach. He had originally been hired in October of 2018 and coached under Joe Maddon for one season, then remained on when David Ross got the gig. A friend of the front office, Iapoce had been the Cubs’ minor league hitting coordinator before joining the Rangers as hitting coach and then coming back to Chicago.
Anthony Iapoce is not expected to return as Chicago Cubs hitting coach, according to sources familiar with the situation.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) October 5, 2021
The Cubs finished 24th in MLB with a .237 average and 22nd with a 92 wRC+, but their 26.7% strikeout rate was worst in baseball. Their hitting actually improved a little from .220 (27th) with a 90 wRC+ (22nd) during the shortened season, though they only struck out at a 25.7% clip in 2020. Those are all massive dips from .252, 100, and 23.6% in Iapoce’s first season, so it’s easy to see why the Cubs might want to move in a different direction.
Ed note: A hitting coach probably doesn’t have nearly as much impact as a lot of folks seem to think, which is why the Cubs keep running through them every couple years.
Even if moving in a different direction with player personnel is largely to blame for any results the team got this year, there may have been a sense that ‘Poce simply wasn’t the guy to guide the development of a younger squad in the future. He was also a front office pick and not necessarily a Ross guy, so an extension for the second-year manager might mean doing a little more hand-picking of his staff.
As for where the Cubs go from here, well, that’s something we’ll certainly hear more about soon. One fairly obvious candidate would be assistant hitting coach Chris Valaika, who joined the big league staff this season after serving as the minor league hitting coordinator. He’s got a lot of experience with the prospects making their way up through the system and he worked wonders with Ian Happ in 2019, so there wouldn’t be any sort of transition required.
Expect to hear more about this and other coaching positions here in the next few days.