7/8 Hit parade
Lou Piniella has grown weary of questions about the offense, or lack of, and suggested Wednesday that the media ask the Cubs’ hitting coach. So, Von Joshua, what’s going on?
“To me, a lot of it is guys putting a lot of added pressure on themselves,” Joshua said after the Cubs’ 4-1 loss to the Braves. “The big thing I’m seeing is guys are — maybe unconciously or what — but everybody’s trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark. I’m trying to stress to them that you don’t have to hit the ball out of the ballpark to score runs.”
The Cubs seemed to be trying to pull the ball against Atlanta’s Kenshin Kawakami, who spotted his pitches on the outside part of the plate.
“I’m just trying to get the guys to relax and hit the ball where it’s pitched and not try to pull everything,” Joshua said. “That’s the biggest thing I see is that guys are in a ‘lift and separate’ mode. They should be thinking back to the middle and take what the pitcher is giving them.”
It’s one thing to make suggestions and look at video. It’s another to get them to execute.
“I can’t go hit for them,” Joshua said. “All I can do is give them the message. These are big league guys and some of them are making a lot of money. I show them on the video what’s going on, I show them their mechanics. You’ve got to execute. The thing I see right now is guys aren’t making the adjustments. Pitchers are doing a certain thing to them and they’re not adjusting to what pitchers are doing to them.”
Two players who seem to be out of sync are Milton Bradley (.236) and Alfonso Soriano (.230). The crowds at Wrigley Field have let both of them know their displeasure.
“[Bradley] is a proud guy, he and Soriano,” Joshua said. “I think the booing might affect them a little bit. They also realize they have to produce.”
Joshua thought Bradley had made progress during the Cubs’ series in Detroit, especially from the left side. But he sees the switch-hitter reverting back to bad habits. What Bradley is doing is starting off open with the lower half of his body, but he’s closed with his upper half. That doesn’t work.
“What happens is he dives with his foot toward the plate, and his upper body continues to turn even more,” Joshua said. “You can read his whole name on his back before he starts his rotation. You can’t hit like that.”
And yes, Joshua and others have pointed it out to Bradley and he is aware of it.
“What I’m trying to do is get him to either match his upper half to his lower half, or match his lower half to his upper half and have everything work as one unit,” Joshua said. “What’s happening now, is when he dives with his lower half and closes with his upper half, he can’t see the pitch.”
Switch-hitters can’t match their left side swing with their right. They’re two different swings, Joshua said.
“If you notice, he’s a lot slower and doesn’t jump at the ball as much from his right side,” Joshua said. “He thinks he’s going to be late maybe [from the left side] but, in essence, that slows you up even more. That’s what he’s fighting right now.”
The Cubs have 80 games to go. Can Joshua turn things around?
“I’m not in the batter’s box,” he said. “All I can do is try to keep them upbeat and show them what’s going on with their mechanics. Here again, it’s a mindset. It’s a battle. You get in that batter’s box, it’s you and the pitcher, you and the ball. You have to go up there and fight. They all know what they’re doing wrong — each and every one of them.”
If Derrek Lee doesn’t get his front foot down in time, he has trouble. Same with Soriano. Micah Hoffpauir’s swing can get too long.
“I think Soriano will come out of it,” Joshua said. “I’m a little concerned about Milton from his left side. He needs to relax and just try to let things come to him and not try to force the issue. You can’t expect D-Lee to do it every game.”
The return of Aramis Ramirez should help. Fukudome has looked better since he was moved into the leadoff spot.
“We just have to get ourselves clicking,” Joshua said. “Above all, they just need to not think they have to hit a home run every pitch. If they’re good line drive hitters and relax, I think they’ll come out of it.”
— Carrie Muskat