Dale Sveum says Cubs’ ‘mind-boggling’ numbers don’t add up
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Twitter: @GDubCub May 23, 2013 2:38PM
Updated: May 23, 2013 3:21PM
PITTSBURGH – Dale Sveum calls it “mind-boggling” and “strange.”
“Just certain things you can’t explain,” the Cubs manager said of his team’s persistent inability to turn excellent pitching into victories this season.
Peppered with questions about so-called clutch hitting, about lineup shuffling, about rethinking his lefty-righty platoon patterns, Sveum engaged the media brainstorming efforts before Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Your patience does run thin because you’re not doing anything [that’s getting results],” he said. “But you think about all those things.”
Often left out of the conversation about what’s wrong with the Cubs’ lineup is this simple fact: It’s not in the building yet.
From the highest ranks of the front office, to the field staff in the clubhouse and the scouts in the field, the Cubs almost constantly talk about, and focus on, acquiring impact pitching.
Mostly, that’s because they believe they have impact hitters in the pipeline: infielder Javy Baez and outfielder Jorge Soler at advanced-A Daytona, outfielder Albert Almora and first baseman Dan Vogelbach at Class A Kane County.
Solving the problems with the big-league lineup? That’s not happening in a deep, substantive way until some of those projected core guys get to the big leagues.
Until then, most of the hitters on the roster – guys not named Rizzo, Castro, Barney or Castillo — are big-league place holders, for better or worse when it comes to the 2013 issues.
“You can say what you want about anybody,” Sveum said. “Those [Class A] guys are our core guys, yeah – guys we want to hit in the big leagues. But they haven’t hit in the big leagues yet.
“So we can’t count on anything except the guys we got right now in this clubhouse.”
So what’s a manager to do with a group that’s not getting the job done, with little in the way of immediate reinforcements available and with more than four months left in an already frustrating season?
For one thing, Sveum said he’s finally ready to consider scrapping the right-handed platoon approach against lefty starters – which has produced a 4-10 record against those starters and a miserable .287 on-base percentage overall against left-handers.
“To tell you the truth, I’m thinking about it now, just to see what happens,” said Sveum, who dismissed the thought a few weeks ago as too early to consider. “It’s kind of gotten to that point.”
But Sveum then seemed to talk himself out of it by rattling off the names of some of the lefties the Cubs have faced, including Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano the first two games of this series.
“These guys are at the top of the line,” he said. “That’s how good left-handed pitching is in all of baseball now. There’s some quality, quality left-handed starters that are doing well against a lot of people.”
The bigger, more confounding puzzle for Sveum: How to solve – and even explain – the fact his team was nine games under .500 entering the day despite:
— A 3.65 team ERA;
— Out-hitting opponents .247 to .232 with 36 more hits, 30 more doubles, six more homers and a slugging percentage 39 points higher;
— Scoring only five fewer runs than opponents.
“It’s mind-boggling. Some of the stats we have are really strange,” he said, “to have this good of starting pitching [3.36, fourth in MLB] and obviously be nine games under .500. … The hitting with men in scoring position [.218], getting that run in, getting a big inning here and there – we’re just snake bit on that.”