There had been speculation for weeks that Jim Hickey, Cubs manager Joe Maddon's longtime pitching coach, might not be back on the North Side next season. Those rumblings became reality on Tuesday, when Chicago provided some clarity about a coaching staff in flux.The Cubs announced that Hickey informed the team
There had been speculation for weeks that Jim Hickey, Cubs manager Joe Maddon's longtime pitching coach, might not be back on the North Side next season. Those rumblings became reality on Tuesday, when Chicago provided some clarity about a coaching staff in flux.
The Cubs announced that Hickey informed the team on Monday of his decision to step down as the club's pitching coach due to unspecified personal reasons. Chicago's search for a replacement, as well as for a new assistant hitting coach, is underway.
"We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement. "Jim has our full support and we all wish him well."
The Cubs had no further comment Tuesday night.
This marks the second offseason in a row that the Cubs have embarked on a search for a pitching coach. Following the 2017 campaign, Chicago parted ways with Chris Bosio after six seasons and brought Hickey aboard. Hickey was a part of Maddon's coaching staff with the Rays for eight seasons (2007-14) prior to joining the Cubs' staff for what proved to be a one-year tour.
During the 2018 campaign, in which the Cubs won 95 games but lost in the National League Wild Card Game to the Rockies, the Hickey-led pitching staff ranked second in the NL with a 3.65 ERA. Chicago ranked 11th in pitching WAR (12.9 per Fangraphs) and 12th in Fielding Independent Pitching (4.14). The Cubs' bullpen led the NL in ERA (3.35), while amassing the fifth-most innings (588 1/3) in the NL. The rotation ranked sixth in the NL with a 3.84 ERA.
The Cubs are also in search of an assistant hitting coach after Andy Haines was hired as the lead hitting coach with the Brewers. Earlier this offseason, the Cubs hired Anthony Iapoce as their hitting coach after dismissing Chili Davis at the end of the season. Similar to the pitching-coach situation, Iapoce will be Chicago's third hitting coach in three seasons.
Potentially factoring into the hiring process is the fact that Epstein made it known this offseason that the Cubs do not plan on discussing a contract extension with Maddon prior to the 2019 season. Maddon, who boasts a 387-261 record in the managerial chair for the Cubs, is entering the final season in the five-year contract he signed in October 2014.
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.