Cubs’ lineup filled with place holders while kids develop
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com May 23, 2013 9:30PM
As the Cubs look to rebuild toward their next competitive window, the strengthening division — which makes up nearly half of their schedule — is only making the process tougher. Here’s how the Cubs have fared against the National League Central this season (times swept in parentheses): Team W-L
Cardinals 1-1 (0)
Pirates 2-4 (1)
Brewers 1-4 (1)
Reds 1-5 (1)
All others 13-14 (1)
Updated: May 25, 2013 12:11AM
PITTSBURGH — Cubs manager Dale Sveum calls it “mind-boggling” and “strange.”
“Just certain things you can’t explain,” Sveum said of his team’s persistent inability to turn excellent pitching into victories.
Peppered with questions about so-called clutch hitting, lineup shuffling and rethinking his platoons, Sveum engaged the media brainstorming efforts before the Cubs’ rain-interrupted, 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
“Your patience does run thin because you’re not doing anything [that’s getting results],” he said. “But you think about all those things.”
Often left out of the conversation about what’s wrong with the Cubs’ lineup is what’s not here yet.
From the highest ranks of the front office to the field staff in the clubhouse and the scouts in the field, the Cubs almost constantly talk about acquiring impact pitchers.
That’s because they believe they have impact hitters in the pipeline: infielder Javier Baez and outfielder Jorge Soler at advanced-A Daytona, outfielder Albert Almora and first baseman Dan Vogelbach at Class A Kane County.
Solving the problems with the big-league lineup won’t happen in any deep, substantive way until some of those projected core players reach the big leagues to join Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo.
Until then, most of the hitters on the 2013 roster are placeholders, for better or worse.
“You can say what you want about anybody,” Sveum said. “Those [Class A] guys are our core guys. Guys we want to hit in the big leagues. But they haven’t hit in the big leagues yet. So we can’t count on anything except the guys we got right now in this clubhouse.”
What’s a manager to do with a group that’s not getting the job done, with few immediate reinforcements available and with more than four months left in an already frustrating season?
Sveum said he might consider scrapping the right-handed platoon against left-handed starters. The Cubs are 4-10 against lefties with a .287 on-base percentage.
“To tell you the truth, I’m thinking about it now, just to see what happens,” Sveum said. “It’s kind of gotten to that point.”
The bigger, more confounding puzzle is how to explain the Cubs being 10 games under .500 despite:
◆ A 3.67 team ERA.
◆ Out-hitting opponents .246 to .233 with 34 more hits, 30 more doubles, six more homers and a slugging percentage 35 points higher;
◆ Scoring only seven fewer runs than opponents.
“It’s mind-boggling. Some of the stats we have are really strange,” Sveum said. “To have this good of starting pitching [3.36, fourth in the majors] and be  games under .500. The hitting with men in scoring position [.218], getting that run in, getting a big inning here and there. We’re just snakebit on that.”