Maddon has Cubs thinking outside box

Maddon has Cubs thinking outside box

Joe Maddon marches to the beat of his own drummer.

So, it’s certainly no surprise that the Chicago Cubs skipper isn’t a prisoner of baseball decorum or tradition. This also applies to batting practice, the age-old custom executed daily by most teams.

But, not the Cubs.

“The ritual of hitting every day just doesn’t do much for me,” said Maddon prior to the third game of the series in Cincinnati, during which the Cubs didn’t take BP. Not once.

Maddon believes over a six-month, 162-game schedule, players swing bats too much. He’s a big believer in rest, both physically and mentally to keep his players fresh for the stretch run in August and September.

“I like BP for ground balls, primarily,” he says. “Playing night games helps in terms of getting some rest. Whenever you get a chance to take advantage of getting some rest, take it.”

One might say the Cubs saved their BP for the field during the Cincinnati series during which they scored a combined 38 runs in the four games, including 16 in Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter on Thursday.

Through 19 games, the Cubs have outscored their opponents by 68 runs, the best differential in the majors. While Maddon encourages less swings, he defers to hitting coach John Mallee when players request extra work.

“I’d tell them, ‘Go talk to Johnny,'” Maddon said. “‘Go talk to your teammates.’ We still have our time. If a couple guys wanted to come out, they could. It’s not like they can’t come out. If they want to, we’ll set up a time.”

The Cubs still get their allotted time on the field which Maddon occasionally will use for pitcher’s fielding practice (PFP) or to work on defensive assignments for bunts.

Maddon believes facilities at most major league parks have improved to the point where taking batting practice inside is as effective as taking it on the field. One exception would be when a player wants to work on hitting to the opposite field.

The big losers in this might be the fans who gather in the outfield sections hoping for souvenirs from Cubs batters. The blue-clad fans at Great American Ball Park this week were out of luck.

Maddon, who said the Cubs will take BP prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field, always is looking for inventive ways to improve his club. For him, not taking batting practice isn’t defiance, it’s simply making better use of his players’ time.

“If they need it, go ahead and do it,” said Maddon. “We have cages inside that accomplish the same thing. If you want to see where the ball goes, come outside. Guys working on hitting the other way or keeping the ball out of the air, do it outside. But, just to come out here and stretch out … not a big advocate of that.”