Cubs utility player Christopher Morrell’s home run streak had one problem.
“Morel is a great player,” said outfielder Seiya Suzuki through an interpreter. “There are many reasons why he can do that and he’s performing very well statistically.
“But I don’t want people to know that when I hit a home run, it’s always there for me. I want someone to give me a little compliment.”
Ever since Morrell was promoted to the majors this season, a home run has felt inevitable. On Tuesday, he extended his home run streak to five games, the longest by a Cubs player since Sammy Sosa in 1998, the year before Morrell was born. His streak ended Wednesday in the Cubs’ 4-2 win over the Mets, but his streak extended to a career-high 13 games. He had at least one hit and one RBI in each of his first 12 major league games this season, tying Hank Sauer’s 1954 opening-season record.
The Cubs were in a tough spot offensively when they recalled Morell a little over two weeks ago. Entering Wednesday, he led the Cubs in batting average (.367), slugging percentage (.980), RBIs (265) and, of course, home runs (9).
“I feel like I’m watching Barry Bonds or something,” reliever Julian Merryweather said. “It’s insane. A week ago I thought he was already doing something historic. Every night he’s chasing a new record.”
“Every time he steps into the box there’s a real threat. It’s an incredible skill set,” said second baseman Nico Herner.
“It’s crazy,” said shortstop Dansby Swanson. I feel like if he hits the ball it will be a home run. He wanted to know what it was like. ”
But to the surprise of Morell’s teammates, he’s a tougher critic.
‘Everybody sees nothing but home runs’ [and] I’m very happy with this,” Morell said Tuesday, adding that he hopes to have more balls in play and fewer strikeouts. “During my two days in Houston, I [seven] Strike out. What happens when we put the ball in play? We can do better. I can help my team. You can get a “W”. ”
He is correct that strikeouts are offensive inefficiencies. The Cubs are now happy to make that tradeoff. But Morrell values consistency.
Morrell started his career last season with a franchise-record 22-game on-base streak, but struck out in just 21.4% of his at-bats. But as the season progressed and opposing teams gathered more information about him, his strikeout percentage climbed to 34.3% and his on-base percentage dropped to .269 in the second half.
Morrell had a 36.5% strikeout rate in Wednesday’s game. But his offense clearly gave the Cubs momentum, even if those numbers discouraged them from starting the season.
Hitting coach Dustin Kelly said he expects Morrell’s discipline at bat to improve as he grows and learns how pitchers should attack.
“He moves faster than any of us and it’s really hard to stop,” Kelly said of Morell’s misses. “He has to learn that when the ball is in that zone it’s ‘go’.” And he’ll start to find ways to brake a little better.
“You’re going to see some swings like that, but you’re going to see some game-changing swings that go 450 feet away.”
Now Morrell sees the latter in most games. It has become commonplace in nature.