Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said certain power numbers are back to levels not seen since the early 1990s. That created a need for such power hitters as No. 2 pick Kris Bryant. | AP
Updated: August 5, 2013 11:14PM
As far as they know, the Cubs don’t have any players linked to the Biogenesis scandal that led to the largest mass suspension in modern baseball history Monday.
But they haven’t escaped the impact.
The six-month battle Major League Baseball waged on players tied to the illegal Miami clinic in its larger war on performance-enhancing drugs has influenced how the Cubs do baseball business.
Think about the Cubs selecting college power hitter Kris Bryant over college power pitcher Jonathan Gray in the June draft. Think about the team signing international position players the last two years (Jorge Soler and Eloy Jimenez) and drafting a position player with its first pick last year (Albert Almora).
With offensive production down everywhere since baseball got relatively tough in its PED testing, the truism that pitching, pitching and more pitching is the key to championships is being challenged.
“It does make a big difference,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “As hard as it is to find really good pitching, to find power in the game [today] is particularly difficult.
“I think for a bunch of years the biggest differences were power was easier to find and the aging curve got skewed.
“Long-term contracts were easier to sign because guys could maintain high levels into their 30s, sometimes late-30s. It’s a young player’s game again.”
Hoyer pointed to slugging percentage and on-base-plus-slugging numbers that declined the last three years across baseball, back to levels not seen since the early 1990s.
Consider that from 1900 through Jose Canseco’s rookie year in 1986, the major-league average slugging percentage reached .400 nine times. Six of those years came during Babe Ruth’s most prolific home-run stretch.
MLB’s mean slugging percentage was over .400 for 18 consecutive seasons through 2010. It was roughly flat the last four years.
“When you change OPS 50 points on average, it does change how you evaluate players, for sure,” Hoyer said. “I think it’s gone back to that point where 30 home runs in a season is a significant accomplishment. We had a long time where that could be a middle infielder.
“This is more the game that we grew up with. And I think it’s taken all of us some time to adjust because perspective got skewed.”
Ask the Cubs’ next opponent, the Philadelphia Phillies, about how important youth and raw hitting is to a team that plans to win today.
They entered Monday fourth from the bottom in the majors in runs and have just a .698 OPS as the core that won five consecutive National League East titles through 2011 — and the 2008 World Series — has aged rapidly and ungracefully.
The moribund Cubs’ lineup has outpaced the Phillies.
Former most valuable players Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are 33 and 34; five-time All-Star Chase Utley is 34; former Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are 36 and 34.
Only Lee is performing close to his All-Star track record. Halladay (shoulder) and Howard (knee) have been derailed by injuries that have them on the disabled list.
“I do think it’s a cleaner game now,” Hoyer said. “It’s moved us back to that period before the stats really changed in roughly 1994. It’s good for the fans. I think it’s good for the front offices. It’s good all the way around.
“I think that the ultimate goal would be to get to the point where people don’t ask questions when people have superlative performances. But I think we’re on the right track to that.”
NOTE: The Cubs claimed outfielder Thomas Neal off waivers from the New York Yankees on Monday and transferred right-hander Rafael Dolis (forearm) to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.