8/22 Grinding it out
How bad is it for the Cubs? In the last 21 games, they are 4-17, hitting .216 (147-for-681) with a .287 on-base percentage, and a .347 slugging percentage. They’ve been out-scored 111-72, and out-homered 28-15, and struck out 174 times. The pitchers have a 5.20 ERA. One of the Cubs’ goals is to improve their on-base percentage and have more productive at-bats.
“It’s very difficult to do it with youth because that comes with [experience],” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday. “There’s obviously some issues that we have to address and get better at getting on base and seeing pitches and working the count because if you’re not doing that and you’re not throwing out slugging percentage, you go through nights like last night, and you’re not going to score runs.”
On Tuesday, the Cubs lost, 5-2, striking out 12 times. It’s been a turnaround since July when the Cubs went 15-10. Has it been tough for Sveum?
“Obviously, we went in the completely opposite direction,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you — it does get frustrating to lose and be behind in ballgames constantly to where our closer has gotten three save opportunities in the month of August. We’ve got to start putting things together and get on the board early and get leads and stay on top. It’s very difficult when you’re not getting people on base. [David] DeJesus is swinging the bat great and we’re not getting him in, getting him over.
“There’s a lot of young things going on now that are starting to be glaring,” he said. “We’re not producing winning at-bats to win baseball games.”
Is the problem the mental approach?
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Sveum said. “We’re going down looking, we’re swinging at pitches way out of the zone early, and then we get good pitches to hit and we take them. What’s going on right now mentally is strange from a hitting point. We’re aggressive when we shouldn’t be, and we’re passive when we should be aggressive. We’ve got to address all these problems in the winter.”
Maybe the problems are simply too much youth.
“We’re super young right now,” Sveum said. “That’s part of the gig and we knew it. You’re going to struggle with those kind of things. If you are going to struggle, I’d much rather see us have some kind of game plan and not go down looking so much in key situations and with guys in scoring position. We’ve got to be a lot more aggressive in those situations. We’ve got to turn into winning hitters. You can’t be hit chasers, you’ve got to be winning hitters.”
After the first inning on Tuesday, Sveum was spotted in the dugout talking to rookie Josh Vitters after he struck out. Was that about having a better at-bat?
“That was when I was asking him why he didn’t run to first base when the ball got away from the catcher,” Sveum said.
“You can only imagine,” Sveum said.
The Cubs haven’t given up on the season.
“The atmosphere is fine,” Sveum said. “The atmosphere in the dugout is OK. You don’t see a lot of guys hanging their heads. The process of grinding at-bats out has got to get better. We’re not grinding at-bats. We’re really passive hitting now. It’s almost like we’re afraid to make mistakes. You can’t be afraid to fail, and it looks like that’s what we’re going through right now.”
The Cubs are on pace to lose 100 games. Sveum said they’re not worried about that.
“Obviously, no one wants to lose 100 games but you have to plug away every single day to grind it out,” Sveum said. “We have to start grinding. That’s the bottom line. You have to grind things out.”
— Carrie Muskat