CINCINNATI — Kris Bryant may not have a home run yet, but he has been bringing something just as valuable to the Cubs lineup — patience.

In his first nine big-league games, Bryant is hitting .379, but it's his .526 on-base percentage that really stands out, with a stellar walk-to-strikeout ratio of 8:8.

"[Opposing pitchers] are going after him pretty hard right now," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "To his credit, he's not just swinging at everything. He's taking his walks. If he continues to do that, he's going to continue to hit at a high pace.

"[The walk-to-strikeout ratio] absolutely is [impressive]. Normally, these [power] guys should strike out over 100 times and if they walk even 50 or 60 times, that'd be fabulous. But for right now, he's just doing a nice job of not biting. They keep trying to expand the strike zone and he's not doing it."

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Bryant is averaging 4.29 pitches per plate appearance, which would rank fourth in the National League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Even if the power hasn't completely been there in the early going (Bryant does have four doubles), Maddon likes what he sees from the rookie slugger.

"[His patience] is unusual," Maddon said. "Even just talking to him in spring training, he demonstrated a really different level of thinking for what he's about to do here. He just never seems to be frazzled or anxious about a moment. He seems to have that moment thought out and under control.

 

"He wants to be in the present tense. He's very mindful of really enjoying himself out there and not making it a difficult moment.

"All those forces combined to help him not want to try to get it down like right now — 'My at-bat right now, if I take a walk, it's a good thing; I'll get them the next at-bat.' He's really been good at that. It's just been one at-bat at a time.

"The home runs are going to come. Guys like that, when they start hitting them, they start hitting them in clusters."

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The Cubs as a team lead the NL in pitches per plate appearance (3.93) entering play Sunday. Anthony Rizzo is 10th in the league with a 4.18 mark, while Jorge Soler (3.95) and Dexter Fowler (3.86) also ranked in the Top 40.

Addison Russell has only played four games in the big leagues and is hitting just .111, but he's actually averaging 4.50 pitches per plate appearance, better than everybody on the Cubs except for Tommy La Stella (5 pitches per plate appearance in two games).

"Every hitter goes up there and we're just not up there hacking right now," Maddon said. "We're really working mindful at-bats and that's kinda fun to watch.

"Part of it is [the rookies] are going to keep getting better. They're already good."

Soler has been scuffling a bit lately, mired in an 0-for-11 stretch the last three games (entering play Sunday), including eight strikeouts.

But the 23-year-old rookie has drawn three walks in that span and is actually averaging five pitches per plate appearance.

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Maddon thinks the results will come for Soler.

"He was doing really well [with strike zone judgement] in the beginning and all of a sudden, he's started to expand a little bit," Maddon said. "And when that happens, there's nothing wrong with your swing; it's just organize your strike zone again.

"He's had the reputation of being able to organize the strike zone, which tells me he's going to do it again. Right now, he's a little bit eager. He's had a lot of guys in scoring position, too. He's also done some really nice damage.

"I just think when he gets back to his zone, he's going to start hitting the ball consistently well again."

Theo Epstein's front office has made it a point to acquire and develop guys who see a lot of pitches and can work an at-bat, following the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees model.

The results have been there for the Cubs in the early going, averaging 4.56 runs per game the first three weeks of the 2015 season.

 

Bryant hitting in the middle of that lineup will continue to help set the tone.

"I just think he understands the importance of [taking pitches]," Maddon said. "He's come up also with a lot of guys on base and he's not succumbed to chasing just to move the baseball. I really like that."