CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum altered the lineup a bit Friday, but what he really wants is an altered approach at the plate.
With the Cubs mired in an offensive funk, Sveum was hoping that his lineup specific for left-handed opposing starters was enough to force some signs of life from an offense that fizzled as the seven-game road trip to New York and St. Louis concluded.
Darwin Barney was in the leadoff spot for just the sixth time this season with Cody Ransom on the No. 2 hole for just the 10th time. The last time he used a similar look was Saturday when the Cubs scored five times and totaled 11 hits in a victory over the Mets.
Those 11 hits were four more than the Cubs delivered in their last two games combined, both defeats to the Cardinals. Sveum sees the current offensive issues compounding themselves.
“Guys have a lot of things going on in their minds,” Sveum said. “But basically what it comes down to is a failure factor. You’re worried about failing instead of succeeding and you can’t do any walk of life with that mindset.”
His issue with Thursday’s defeat at St. Louis was what he counted as 14 first-pitch strikes that Cubs batters elected to take.
“You don’t want to get into the wishy-washy thoughts of, ‘Should I swing at the first pitch? Should I not swing at the first pitch? What’s the best time to do it?’” Sveum said. “Basically if you can drive the ball out of the ballpark, take a good swing at it. That’s what you want to do.”
The numbers from the road trip when the Cubs went 3-4 were brutal. Ryan Sweeney batted .160 (4-for-25), Nate Schierholtz batted .211 (4-for-19), Anthony Rizzo batted .238 (5-for-21), Starlin Castro batted .133 (4-for-30) and Alfonso Soriano was an unsightly .069 (2-for-29).
It wasn't so much that Cubs hitters seemed stuck on the idea of working pitch counts, it was when they did it and how, in turn, they failed to take advantage opportunities presented to them.
“It’s just the equal mindset you want all the time in hitting,” Sveum said. “You don’t want to have different thoughts all the time. I think that’s the one thing that gets in the way of hitting is hitters get different thoughts all the time. 'This at-bat I’m going to do this. This at-bat I’m going to do that. The third at-bat I’m going to do this,' instead of being the same guy all the time.”
Sveum seemed taken aback that Cubs hitters continue to struggle with the right time to work counts and the right time to be aggressive.
“If we get men in scoring position, be ready to hit,” Sveum said. “The averages go down when you’re behind in the count. That’s a simple fact that’s happened for 100 years in the game.”
The Cubs might have lost three of the four games this week in St. Louis, but Sveum might have stayed longer if he could have, just so his own hitters could get a look at how the Cardinals were approaching thier at-bats.
"You see those guys with the same approach on every at-bat,"Sveum said. "They’re ready to do some damage on every pitch. If it’s not a good pitch to drive out of the park they take it. Or they might swing at it. But the next pitch is no different from the next pitch or the next pitch."