Dale Sveum frustrated watching young hitters struggle at plate
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org August 22, 2012 7:54PM
The Cubs’ Brett Jackson (7) and David DeJesus collide as they go after a ball hit by the Brewers’ Norichika Aoki in the first inning. Neither was hurt. | AP
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:51AM
MILWAUKEE — The Cubs have a younger lineup than they’ve had in years — ‘‘super young,’’ manager Dale Sveum said — but that’s no excuse for some of the things he’s getting tired of seeing at the plate.
‘‘I’m not going to lie to you: It [does] get frustrating to lose and be behind in ballgames constantly, to where our closer has gotten three save opportunities in the month of August,’’ Sveum said Wednesday before venting some of that frustration on a group of Cubs hitters that includes five rookies and three others still looking for their first full seasons in the majors.
‘‘There’s a lot of young things
going on right now that are starting to be glaring things. We’re
going down looking. We’re swinging at pitches way out of the zone early, and then we get good pitches to hit and take them.
‘‘What’s going on right now mentally is kind of strange from a hitting standpoint. We’re aggressive when we shouldn’t be, and we’re passive when we should be aggres-
sive. . . . We’ve got to address all these problems in the winter to produce some runs.’’
Until then, they will get series such as this one. The Cubs were swept in a three-games series at Miller Park and struck out 37 times in the process, including 13 times in a 3-2 loss Wednesday. During their 1-6 road trip to Cincinnati and Milwaukee, the Cubs struck out 71 times.
‘‘We’re super young right now,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘That’s part of the gig, and we knew it. So you’re going to struggle with those kinds of things. But if we’re going to struggle, I’d much rather see us have some kind of game plan and not go down looking so much in key situations.’’
He said that before watching a three-rookie lineup go down looking eight times Wednesday.
The loss was the Cubs’ 18th in 22 games since the non-waiver trade deadline July 31. During that span, they’ve scored three runs or fewer 12 times.
Despite the woeful offense, Sveum said the attitude and atmosphere in the dugout have been fine.
‘‘But the process of just grinding at-bats has got to get better,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s become passive hitting right now. It’s almost like we’re afraid to make mistakes, and then that’s what you’re going to do. You can’t be afraid to fail at this level, and it looks like that’s what we’re going through right now.’’
Firing hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo two months ago and providing a ‘‘new voice’’ through James Rowson was supposed help the transition to the more ‘‘selectively aggressive’’ approach the Cubs’ first-year front office wanted to see.
But the on-base percentage, slugging percentage and scoring haven’t changed — before or since the trade deadline — in Jaramilllo’s absence. Entering play Wednesday, the Cubs ranked last in the
National League in runs scored (455) and on-base percentage (.298) and fourth from the bottom in slugging percentage (.380).
And now strikeout totals are mounting quickly, thanks to the
influx of rookies such as Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, after staying reasonably low most of the season.
‘‘We’re getting into that area of guys starting to worry and think way too much,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘And, obviously, the results are showing that. You can’t think about situations all the time. You have to just apply yourself and produce in the situation at hand. . . . I think the biggest thing is that the game plans go out the window too often.’’
The only thing left to do is load the young hitters up on at-bats, said Sveum, who wants to see players such as Jackson and Vitters get even more at-bats in winter ball.
‘‘You should play as much baseball as you possibly can,’’ he said. ‘‘You never know what’s around that corner as you get more and more at-bats.’’