Delicate Balance For Cubs On The Basepaths

The Cubs lead MLB in the most outs made on the bases in 2019.

Bruce Levine
July 17, 2019 - 1:12 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Cubs have left plenty to be desired and many puzzled with their baserunning this season. 

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In a departure from their quality work in this department in recent seasons, the Cubs have lost 40 runners on the bases in 2019, the most in MLB. That fact has left them searching for the proper balance between instinct, smarts and implementing the instruction from coaches. 

It's been a focus for Cubs manager Joe Maddon for years as he worked his way up to his current position.

"You always have to stay in communication with players, even pre-millennialism," Maddon said of his adventurous baserunners. "That has always been one of my favorite things to teach. You have to correct and talk about it without taking the aggressiveness out of the player. You do not want to ever make a guy into a station-to-station baserunner. You are relying on the hope that the player can process it properly."

Maddon wants to display a care factor when discussing mistakes with his players.

"I have been around coaches that just started yelling at guys," Maddon said. "That was what the 1980s were all about. If a guy screwed up on the bases, they would put them up against the wall. I never liked that. I have always wanted to talk to players help them understand the nuances of seeing things in advance, the anticipatory part where you see things in advance. That is what really good baserunners do. I have been encouraging our guys to be about that. Call it to focus or anything you want to, visualization in advance of the moment."

Third-base coach Brian Butterfield is in charge of the Cubs' baserunning. He admits it's an area of teaching that's a new challenge.

"There is a large area of in between in giving players a proper message," Butterfield said. "Baserunning is hard. Let me give you an example. Anthony Rizzo is a really great baserunner. Against the Mets (recently), he ran into two outs. The reason he ran into two outs is he was trying to make something happen. So it isn't always a guy lacking focus or just running stupid. He looked up at the scoreboard and saw a bunch of zeros. We were struggling with the bats, and he was trying to make something happen with his legs. As a coach, we also have to keep evolving and learning from experiences. I have sent guys home and they were safe. Afterward, I said to myself and said that was a bad decision. We must grow together in this process."

Maddon admitted some players are destined to run until they're tagged out.

"Quite frankly, I had some guys who really never got it," Maddon mused. "I have a list of the worst baserunners in history. One guy we actually brought to the Instructional League and told him not to bring his glove. Don't bring your glove -- you will not be playing, you're just here to run the bases, we told him. We would insert him daily, but eventually we just shut it down. Bob Clear (an Angels coach and instructor) still couldn't stand watching this player getting thrown out on the bases. Some guys just have a hard time going out there and seeing things. The player was an accomplished hitter and played nice defense. He was just one of the worst on the bases."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.