Right Now is when Theo Epstein earns his money

Right Now is when Theo Epstein earns his money
Brett Jackson misses a 58 foot slider, after taking two right over the plate

From Felzz in the Cubs Den:

Thirty-seven strikeouts. Thirty-seven. Many of the “Oh my god why didn’t you hit that?” variety. Three straight games of double digit K’s. Is it fair to criticize James Rowson yet? The new hitting philosophy isn’t really coming into focus. You let some of the K’s pass. Brett Jackson saw a strike 3 today that was at his ankles. Nothing you can do. But this is more than rookies struggling with their approach. This is a team wide thing going on. Shouldn’t some of the blame go higher than the players?

Can't be mad, can't flip-flop.  Lord knows I have been mad in one way or another at the organization since I found out that Santa Claus ain't real.  It's a shame that Garza is hurt, and although it should surprise noone that Soriano would rather stay here and get paid to swing from his ass four times a day than be expected to contribute to a winner, it still doesn't sit well with me that he should show so little loyalty to an organization who has already paid him nearly a hundred million dollars by vetoing trades.  So that bugs me, butaside from Sori's continued presence, I can't complain about the roster moves being made at this time.

We've seen some roster hocus-pocus this month designed to give the maximum number of opportunities to as many young starters and relievers as possible.  Honestly, I'm not sure what purpose Shawn Camp serves anymore.  I realize he was the most steady arm during the first half, but lately he's been just as bad as all the "who's he"s we've been throwing in there lately.  The churn hasn't been as noticeable amongst the hitters, meaning that Rizzo, Jackson and Vitters haven't gone down once they've come up.  This is evaluation time; this is when we find out what we have.

I don't know what you were expecting, kind reader?  I figured out position prospects were pretty far ahead of our pitching prospects.  I knew we would lose games, but I figured they would be more of the 10-8 slow pitch softball variety, because of the warm weather, utter lack of pitching prospects, and the young guns being turned loose everyday without fear of reprisal.  So what have we gotten?

Relatively decent pitching from Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley, Travis Wood and Historic Ineptitude at the plate.  In Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, we have three of the highest rated position prospects the Cubs have had in decades, and right now nobody except David DeJesus acts like they know what they are doing at the plate.  There is no way you can sell me on "everybody on the team is going through a slump all at once".  So either one of two things are true:

  1. Prospect ratings are worthless; or
  2. The seeming lack of a plan at the plate results from a lack of guidance

There is no way I can possibly address the first possibility, and the second shouldn't be happening.  What about "The Cubs Way"?  What about the top-down approach of computer analysis, video breakdown, coordinated coaching, resulting in intelligent game planning?  It seems to be working on defense, and there are instances you can point to with our pitchers where this approach is evident.  The Ryan Brauns and Brandon Phillipses of the league are getting theirs against us, but honestly I notice that less frequently we are getting beat in obvious situations.  Our pitchers still walk too many hitters, which should be a enterprise-wide concern.

However, it was understood coming in that the current crop of hurlers hanging around in the gap between Iowa and Chicago were not quality.  Anything that can be salvaged from the Rusin, Raley, Cabrera mix is a bonus.  But Vitters was a third overall pick, Jackson has been a top prospect for a couple of years, Rizzo is the hand-picked successor, Castro was THE hottest thing in baseball two years ago, LaHair has murdered AAA pitching for years and did well enough in the first half to...gulp...get named to the All Star team?  There is no reason whatsoever for a team with this kind of pedigree to strike out 37 times in three games to a miserable, fleabit pitching staff like the Brewers.  Shit, they're worse than us on the mound, their bullpen is amongst the worst groups EVER statistically, and we made them look like a team full of Rocket Rogers.  If there is a plan when we come to the plate, it isn't evident.  Or it's ass-backwards wrong. 

To me, this looks like a field management problem, this new hitting coach, our former minor-league roving hitting coordinator, seems as mismatched as last years former minor-league roving pitching coordinator.  But I'm not running the team, and thank God of that!  These are evaluative times, and maybe just maybe our so-called top hitting prospects really do suck.  I did not expect them to put up .900 OPS but at least don't make us long for Luis Valbuena at third base?  Something has to give, friends.  Either we cut our losses with the players currently dying out there every day, or we revamp the on-field instruction. 

This is the next thing I am watching for the rest of this season.  This is why Theo and Jed are being paid.  This is the next milestone in the Epstein Plan.  Let's hope they do as good of a job on this one as they've done so far.

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  • The question is after needing to get rid of Rudy (who was supposed to be Soriano's savior, but wasn't), whether this guy is just an interim coach until Theo and Jed find someone of their liking, or just a manifestation of that the Cubs are in a race with Houston to see which team can throw away its season quicker.

  • Well, I think if Bret Jackson had Ryan Braun strike zone we'd see a different hitter. I looked at yesterdays strike zone on all 4 at bats. In the first AB (he railed a shot to first), two pitches were 3 inches of of the TV strike zone for strikes before he made contact. His K in 9th was Axford just beating him. However, the other 2 AB's were completely "rookie" treatment. Notes by announcer "Jackson you just got hosed". James has him not swinging out of the zone but the zone looks like a Maytag refrigerator. Different umpire crew this weekend. Let's see how many K's happen in the next three games......

  • I agree a field management problem may exist but it goes much deeper into the scouts/player development and minor league coaches and managers. Theo and team have recognized this and are starting to clean house. Vitters is never going to be on anyone's championship team and Jackson is only marginal because of his better defense. They were over-hyped of course just like Patterson, Pie and many others. The players they are hyping now such as Lake, Baez and a couple of the new acquisitions will demonstrate Theo's talent but not for a few years. Pitching is just awful and I don't real improvement except for F.A's when the rest of the team is ready to compete.

    The lack of hitting discipline, base running skills and especially lack of hustle are all teachable at the minor league level. They either were not taught or players were not forced to apply them so therefor I believe a housecleaning is in order for the coaches/managers who did not do their jobs. That would be most of them.

  • I think we should continue to let the rookies try and figure some things out before judging them. The MLB level of pitching far exceeds AAA. Until the hitters adjust when pitchers exploit their weekspots at the plate, we won't know which players have the ABILTY to adjust. That ability is what makes the difference between a cup of coffee career and a long one.

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