Cubs’ hitting coach John Mallee spent the last segment of Saturday’s Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) talking about several of his players with Bruce Levine and Jordan Bernfield.
The Cubs have a dynamic group of young hitters John Mallee and Eric Hinske work with on a daily basis. Mallee discussed the challenges young players deal with in the majors, the adjustments that were recently made with Jorge Soler and the slight change Kris Bryant made to his swing.
John Mallee explained the difference between Chris Coghlan now and the hitter he saw come up through the Marlins system.
And Starlin Castro has impressed Mallee with the way he has handled the most difficult season of his career.
On constantly being on the move and helping the players
“Sometimes I take it a little overboard but I’m afraid you have to keep moving. When you have 12 position players or 13 position players and when they are as young as they are I’ve got to spend a lot of time trying to go through a lot of stuff from the game before, who is pitching that night and working with these guys individually. There is a lot of work and I get a lot of help from my assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske. He and I share the load together, so it’s good.”
On how he balances working with the players when Joe Maddon has a philosophy of not overworking them
“I think some of that is misunderstood in the fact that what Joe [Maddon] really wants is physically he wants the guys to rest so that they are ready for the game at seven o’clock. So if you have 13 guys and you spread them over a couple of hours in the cage, you are talking 30-40 swings with some guys only as a maintenance. There are other guys that have a little longer routine because they are trying to make some mechanical adjustments. It’s really not … We don’t meet on the field because guys have to stand out there and be on their feet. But when they come to the cage, we spend time on just doing little things without physically wearing them down. I think that’s the big point Joe is making. Even with the American Legion Week now, it’s kind of cool because you remember playing American Legion. You went out there. You drove your car to the park. You got out, you played ball and you went home. With the stress of the season, the length of the season and with the importance of all of these games, a lot of stress can get to you. Having it like that it’s just another day. You just come out and play ball and we go home. I think the environment he creates with that has just been amazing.”
On Kris Bryant, his struggles in July, seemingly figuring things out again in August and the adjustments that have been made
“There are a couple of things as you go through. As soon as the rookies come up here, a lot of times they are successful then they start to struggle a little bit because the league starts to adjust to them. Once you figure out what is happening, why is it happening and how am I going to fix it from an approach standpoint and if there is anything physical we are working on. Kris [Bryant] understands how the other team is trying to pitch him. The more we face a pitcher the better off we do the second time usually because they have that batter-pitcher match-up history. With a lot of these young guys they don’t have the experience of facing the opposing pitcher. But when they see him again they kind of know how the guy has tried to get them out. We can adjust back to that. Physically, you know he’s got a swing that’s built to get the ball off the ground and that’s what we want from guys with power is not to hit the ball on the ground. Sometimes he gets a little steep where he’s a little too uphill and he’s in and out of the zone so if he’s not on time he’ll miss hit a ball. He’s still trying to take the same approach, but he’s trying to hit through the ball a little more and flattening his swing up just a hair. He’s been working hard on that recently and starting to get some results.”
On Chris Coghlan, what he has done to get back to where he is and what adjustments Mallee has helped Coghlan make this year
“I was fortunate enough to be with Chris [Coghlan] all throughout the minor leagues with the Marlins. I was the hitting coordinator with the Marlins when Chris was there so I got to see him from day one. He didn’t really stride, didn’t use his lower half, put in a little leg kick when he needed it. I had a chance to watch him be Rookie of the Year in the big leagues when I was coaching the Marlins. Then he got injured, actually got injured in the shoulder in a home plate celebration. Two years he fell off the map. He could never get healthy. Last year he resurfaced and it was nice because he got with Anthony Iapoce our hitting coordinator who had him also with the Marlins and that connection there helped when Chris went back to the minor leagues last year and then came up here. Either your swing mirrors, your concepts or your game mirrors are your values, so that is kind of the philosophy we have. If you have certain values on what is important as a hitter then you are going to try to mirror that and try to make that happen. We changed his values from trying just to be a line drive, go the other way type guy. He didn’t want to walk. He just wanted to get hits. He wanted to get 200 hits a year. And now he’s looking more to slug and OPS. He is trying to … during the at bat the counts will dictate kind of what your approach should be and he’s looking for pitches to slug early in the count. He’s also changed his bat path a little bit, it’s not as wide as it used to be. He’s trying to get the ball more in the air. He’s trying to hit through the ball and get more fly balls. Early in the year he hit a bunch of balls into left field. I remember one game he would have had three home runs. He’s changed his values and his game has changed. He’s trying to get on base and the reason he’s walking he’s trying to be patient waiting for a pitch he can slug. If he can’t slug it, he takes it. And that’s truly what selective-aggressive hitting is. Hitting a pitch within your strength early in the count and taking everything else within the strike zone even though it’s a strike. That is kind of what we preach to everybody. And he’s really taken off with it.”
On Jorge Soler, the lack of power this year and if he sees him as being a future power hitter
“Absolutely. Just look at him. You watch him take batting practice. The exit velocity off his bat is crazy. When you have to get the launch angle right to get the ball in the air … he’s hit so many line drives and hard groundballs. He’s just not getting loft to the ball yet. He’s going to stand a little more upright now and trying to make a few adjustments to his swing essentially in the last three days to try to get some more lift to the ball. He’s doing a better job of not chasing. Yesterday [Friday] he got a little excited, but in general he’s not chasing as much as he was. He’s really been working his butt off. The last couple of days his setup is a little more narrow in his setup and he’s not doing the bigger re-stride where is weight is all behind center. He’s a little more upright. He’s staying in motion. His work has been great and I think it’s going to translate into the game a little bit when he gets used to when to get ready in the game.”
On what he sees with Starlin Castro offensively and if he has noticed him being more balanced at the plate with better at bats in the last couple of weeks compared to earlier in the season
“Starlin [Castro] … I’ll tell you what, one thing about Starlin, what a teammate and what a person. He’s amazing. Even though these struggles you would expect that he would go the opposite direction and all he does is works and smiles and he wants to get better. I am so proud of him and what a good teammate. Being a three-time All-Star and accepting the role and wanting to be really good at it. That will tell you something about the kid first off. Second off, when he gets in trouble he over strides, steps in the bucket a little bit. When the pitches are away from him, when you reach them you have to lose posture and when you lose posture you don’t have any leverage. Obviously, you hit groundballs. You hit balls on the ground and you don’t slug. He’s just trying to shorten up his stride, make sure he is linear or back towards the pitcher and trying to hold his finish after he hits and trying to maintain his posture. A lot of times a pitch can get you off your posture if you’re chasing bad pitches. He was getting some pitches to hit and he was just coming off the ball. He’s working really hard staying in right center. Having his stride direction and momentum and energy going back to the pitcher and trying to maintain posture and balance.”