CHICAGO | The Cubs and White Sox are a brotherhood in possessing chunks of quality starting rotations whose good works are often sabotaged by impatient hitters.
Talk around U.S. Cellular Field during the opening of the Crosstown Series Monday and Tuesday was whether patient hitters are born or can be made, to get more baserunners in both teams’ offensively-challenged lineups.
The most patient hitter on the premises, the Sox’s Adam Dunn with his string of 100-walk seasons, said he worked counts “from day one” in Little League. Dunn believes hitters develop their style and can scarcely be changed.
“One of my good buddies, Jay Bruce, was a hacker, always has been,” Dunn said. “When he came up, they wanted him to be more selective. You can’t take the aggressiveness out of a guy whose been doing it his whole life.
“If you’re a hacker, you’re a hacker. You can’t go up to Alexei (Ramirez) and say, 'Be patient, wait for your pitch,’ because he sees it, and he hits it. That’s what makes him great.”
In contrast, Frank Thomas “had a good idea of the strike zone” when he first came up in 1990, said Sox manager Robin Ventura, and went on to lead the American League in walks four times.
Changing a hitter’s style in mid-stream is fraught with perils.
“I don’t know what would be harder, to try to make a guy that’s patient more aggressive, or (make) guy who’s really aggressive patient,” Dunn said.
The Theo Epstein-headed Cubs brass wants to institute its on-base-percentage program, but has been thwarted by mismatched personnel. The North Siders will simply have to go out and get OBP-oriented players.
“That’s one of the challenges and one of things we always talk about,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Is patience and working a good at-bat -- is that something that’s taught or is that something that’s innate?
“To a certain extent, it’s something we’re going to look for extensively in the draft and internationally – guys that can manage an at-bat.”
Chicago teams’ lack of patience is so extreme the Sox’s Jeff Keppinger, a well-advertised contact hitter, went more than 100 plate appearances before he drew his first walk – with the bases loaded.
“Some people don’t have quite the patience that other people do,” said Ventura. “I think that comes with the confidence of the way you’re swinging. When guys are confident, they’re just more patient. The better people are, the more patient they’ll be.”