Cubs Recap: Garza not sharp, Sveum concerned about offense

Cubs Recap: Garza not sharp, Sveum concerned about offense

It sounds as if Dale Sveum is starting to get a bit frustrated with his team’s lack of offense.

They laid an egg again Wednesday night in maybe the ugliest loss this season, by losing to Mark Buehrle and the Marlins 9-1. They also managed to do it all in front of Cubs brass, including Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney.

Yes, Matt Garza (1-1) wasn’t on his game tonight at all. He lasted only five innings, giving up six runs, and had a hard time with a bad bunt attempt at the plate. He gave up two home runs including one to Hanley Ramirez, who has owned the Cubs in this series.

However, Sveum is giving his pitchers a little backing by saying they need more support.

 "We're not scoring runs to (counteract) that," he said. "So it's tough for these starting pitchers to know they have to be perfect all the time."

Sveum realizes this offense is lacking both power and disciplined hitters, not exactly the blueprint he is looking for.

 “We’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and we’re not hitting for a big slugging percentage,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s tough to score runs when you don’t have slugging percentage and you’re not getting people on base.”

“We don’t have a lot of big power guys. But slugging percentage doesn’t just come from home runs. It’s a doubles and a triples ballpark. We’re not getting much slugging percentage at all in two games here. We have to get something going.”

I wish I could see a way this line-up will become more productive without getting an infusion of talent from Iowa, in say Brett Jackson or Anthony Rizzo.

I have been critical lately of having Marlon Byrd and Geovany Soto in the line-up despite their struggles.However, Sveum seemed to indicate he will allow more time for Byrd to turn things around.

"We've got to get him going," Sveum said. "We've got to get him swinging the bat. That's a big part of our lineup. He's playing a real nice center field. He's doing a great job out there. He's playing hard and battling and working his butt off to get out of it."

It's only been 10 games and 34 at-bats, and Sveum said he wants to see what happens at the 100 at-bat mark.

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  • Sveum is absolutely right. The lack of offense is the single biggest problem on this team. And a bad offense plus a questionable bullpen is a recipe for a lot of frustrating, late-inning losses and a very long season.

    Any lineup with Barney in the 2-hole, Soriano in the 4-hole and Stewart in the 5-hole is going to be weak. All three of those guys are questionable as everyday players--if they're being counted on to play the key roles in the offense (which they are), we have big problems.

    The FO's approach, to build depth and improve the team incrementally, is the right approach to start with for a team with such a weak roster. And it is possible to make multiple, incremental improvements to the offense, by adding Rizzo, Jackson, and Vilbuena (or Cardenas). And also, by doing things like platooning Stewart with Baker, something that Cub management is inexplicably reluctant to do.

    We'll see how long Sveum has patience with this lineup. Right now, there are just too many holes, too many minuses. And no major pluses.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    I don't know if it's time to replace Barney, he's one of the few guys hitting right now but I do agree the Cubs will make some changes as the year goes on. We're only 2 weeks into the season so the vets deserve more time. The Cubs have to evaluate who can be long term, everyday players before making wholesale changes. I don't think enough is known about guys like Stewart, LaHair, Barney, etc. r

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, I agree that now is definitely not the time to make wholesale changes--two weeks into the season. That would be the Steinbrenner approach--it simply doesn't work and it's insulting to the players. I really believe that they ought to go with what they've got until late May/early June, and then make whatever (multiple) changes that they feel they need to make around that time, all around the same time, so there's direction and order and people know what their roles are.

    The only exception to that is Camp--I just don't see the justification for keeping a guy like that around. He's not going to be a part of the next Cubs team with a winning season, let alone the next Cubs championship team, and he has zero chance of playing an important role in the bullpen (successfully). If he rebounds, he's a mediocre middle reliever...and then what? They'd be better off giving trials to Parker, Maine and Belliveau, IMO. It pains me that they waived Gaub for the sake of adding Camp (I know you don't like Gaub, but to let go of anyone with any value to add Camp just doesn't make sense to me.)

    As far as Barney goes, my gut tells me that the FO's plan is to give him until the all-star break to prove he can build on what he's done, and if he has a sub-700 OPS at that point, they'll give Vilbuena or Cardenas a shot at playing every day, whomever has impressed the most. It's not out of the question that Barney, with his work ethic and approach, could put together a 290/325/400/725 season and improve his defense a bit, which would be okay.

    In the meantime, they have a veteran in DeWitt on the bench, and two young guys with offensive upside at AAA playing everyday. Barney has nothing in his career record to suggest that he'll ever hit enough to be a good everyday 2Bman, but at the very least he's a valuable bench player. He has a good head on his shoulders and he works hard, plays the game right and it's worth giving him a little more time, just like they're giving a shot to LaHair. My sense about Barney is that he'll never be a good everyday 2Bman, but he's a Craig Counsell-type guy who is a good guy to have on the roster. But it makes sense to see if he turns out to have more value, so they can maximize what they have.

    IMO, Jackson is an improvement over Byrd, Rizzo is an improvement over Soriano (if they move LaHair to LF), and Vilbuena is an improvement over Barney. Plus, having a permanent Stewart/Baker platoon at 3B is an improvement over Stewart playing every day. The posturing about Stewart being an every day player and all is a nice way of showing him they believe in him, but it doesn't jibe with reality, and it's foolish since Baker's OPS against LHP is in the neighborhood of 850-900 and 3B is his natural position.

  • Tom, I don't think there is any other way to fix the offense than to bring up the kids...Byrd has left them no choice, they have to play him to build his value up or they get nothing for him and Soto flat out sucks...Soriano isn't clutch and Barney so far looks like nothing more than a reserve player..I agree with one of the guys on XM who suggested that the Cubs will field the youngest team in the MLB by sometime in June..and personally I cannot wait!!!!

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I'm with you Luigi all the way. It will be easier to watch them lose with young players that have an upside. I don't think any amount of AB is going to help Byrd's value, it's shot in my opinion. Again, I'm all for rebuilding, but there is too much middling going on here.

  • Yes it will be interesting to see how much patience he has. I really would like to see Mather and Clevenger get more at bats, and see what happens. However, it may take until summer to see what this line up can become with Rizzo and BJax.

  • Looks like it might be another long season.

  • Sure looks like it right now.

  • This is going to be long season . I keep thinking it's too early to say that, however there are clear signs this a 90 plus loss team . Bad hitting and poor relief is a bad combo

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    A long season, indeed. But the Cubs are going for a complete rebuild here and we have to be patient...but there's a part of me who can't wait until the Cubs start making trades, call-ups, etc. and move to the next phase.

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    I've said it before, but I'll say it again. What the Cubs' lineup is on August 1st and how it performs from that point on more important than the what that lineup is on April, May, June or July 1st. Until then, what goes on down at the farm and in the draft is far more interesting to me. Also, as frustrating as it is to see, there are advantages to sucking badly, and this is a front office that is always looking for those advantages so as to benefit from them.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Cubs will get a higher draft pick and more international pool money!! That may be the only bright side to the season. There may be others as the year goes on, such as Samardzija and Volstad establishing themselves in the rotation, but too early for that.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The early consensus on the high school class of 2013 and the college class of 2014 is that it's deeper in terms of impact talent. That should benefit the Cubs no matter where they draft, which is probably going to be 4th overall or higher if they keep playing like this. However, even with all the restrictions placed by the new CBA, I'm confident this front office is going to find ways to acquire talent, but I'm even more confident that this front office will actually have people in place to groom that talent. This organization has had little of neither since the Dallas Green era, and when they finally did get a top notch amateur scout, Tim Wilken, they cut his legs out from under him by not giving him the money he needed to sign the kids he wanted to draft. So he tries to stretch his budget by drafting kids who he knows are signable, and some of those kids might have turned out had the Cubs had a proper player development system in place. Case in point, who knows what might have become of Tyler Colvin had he come up in the Red Sox system? There was no questioning his athleticism. He'd have certainly stood a better chance of becoming the player we thought he could be.

  • Although this team is unappealing to watch ( and I have watched pieces of nearly every game - last night I watched the offense only on mlb.com and it took less than 40 minutes of actual viewing to watch the entire 9 innings of Cub ABs - do not recommend), I am willing to give the new regime some rope to correct the substantive issues that they inherited from the drunken sailor who spent freely to cover up his inabiltiy to recognize and develop talent from within.

    90 losses would be a best case scenario. I think that the 2012 version of the Cubs (and it will change as the season progesses) has a good chance of scorig the fewest runs, hitting the fewest home runs and leading the league in being shut out.

    As for the pitching, I think the relief corp could end up with a collective ERA of 6 plus this season.

    I am ready to see an old fashioned house cleaning with the late season roster populated with future Cubs only.

    It is time to turn the page on the Hendry era. Other than Soriano, we will have no other payroll encumbrances heading into 2013.

    Yah!

  • I was thinking that most teams hope for everything to come together, good chemistry, to have and maintain good health, and to have a handful of break-out/career year seasons from their players and that all that just *might* add up to a World Series appearance/title. I think it's reasonable to say that if all of those things click for the Cubs that we are still just hoping for a .500 team. Such is the sad state of the current roster.

    While that is usually a cause for misery, for the 1st time in the 30 some years that I've been a Cubs fan, I don't really care about our record. In fact, I sort of hope it is one of the worst for the draft pick next year. This year is all about evaluating what talent we have (i.e.--what do we have in Stewart? or LaHair? or Castillo? etc.) and building up experience for the youth (Rizzo and BJax in particular).

    Since I already know the team will suck (to put it bluntly) and that the end game is not for this season, I'm not too incredibly troubled by the day to day loses. I think for all of us to stay sane, though, we will need to see some of those kids later in the summer or it will indeed be a long, long year.

  • Things will get better for this team, because they can't really get much worse. I suspect the front office is quite pleased, because this is such a rock bottom team that even the most marginal success will be evidence of progress. We're terrible now -- but soon we'll be merely mediocre!

    All the same, even I'm beginning to run out of patience with Byrd. Imagine if you're a GM with a need for renting a decent CF. What would Byrd have to do in the next month to prove to you he's worth a roster spot, a paycheck and a half-decent prospect? I'd say he'd have to hit around .400 with power over that month.

    Is that realistic? No, of course not. It's a thousand-to-one. So I think we've arrived at the point where we give Byrd his walking papers and elevate Reed Johnson to the starting job. He can keep it warm till Brett Jackson's ready.

    Since Soto plays a premium position, he gets a longer leash.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Agreed on all of your points Taft except for cutting bait on Byrd immediately. There's no hurry. We aren't gonna get that much better with him NOT in the line-up (but maybe a tad more interesting to watch). I think Sveum's got the right approach. Give him 100 ABs and see if he can work it out and build value. If not, then call up Campana, give Johnson the spot and move on.

  • I'm not saying LaHair is the next Prince Fielder, but he is one of the few guys who has been hitting in this line up early on. He has not started against a left hander yet and he was not in there when a right hander Westbrook pitched Sunday. When Jeff Baker is either in the 4 or 5 hole in the order, you are in for a long night. If Sveum wants his bat in the line I'd rather see him in the at 3rd for Stewart.

  • I feel like I'm back in KC watching the Royals.

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