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If the Cubs want more consistent production with the bats in the second half of the season, maybe just maybe they should reconsider the utterly ridiculous lineup they used over the weekend.
In particular, the placement of the team's two worst on-base guys in the first and second spots in the order was mind-boggling.
Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot is not working! He isn't drawing walks any more. This is not complicated. Schwarber wraps up the first half with an OBP of .320. Baez, who batted second over the weekend, is barely ahead of him at .324.
Or course, Kris Bryant is way out in front at .403. That is why it has always been best to bat him second. Then comes Anthony Rizzo (.384) and Willson Contreras (.381). Hell, try Contreras at leadoff when it finally dawns on you that Schwarber isn't good enough. And you can do it at the same time that you are telling Willson he is going to play a lot more corner outfield.
Tell Contreras you need him to focus on his hitting for a while - in the leadoff spot. That explains his not catching anymore. Perhaps that way you can avoid the uncomfortable conversation in which you tell him he is not only now the worst pitch framer in the league but also the worst pitch-stopper.
Contreras has simply stopped even trying to execute passed-ball-wild-pitch-stopping fundamentals. That is perhaps the most ridiculous thing about this week's All-Star extravaganza that kicked off last night with the Futures game - that Contreras is starting at catcher for the National League.
Baez was born to hit fourth or fifth. You want him in a spot where he can use his high hitting rate (a stat I am hereby making up that has to do with how often a batter actually puts the ball in play and gives himself a chance to get an RBI - I'll get back to you on the specifics). Ideally you have Bryant and Rizzo getting on base like they do followed by Baez driving them in.
Meanwhile, nobody tell Robel Garcia about the Cubs' unbelievable inability to find a consistent leadoff hitter during Maddon's entire tenure as skipper. Because the rookie second baseman is the guy who should get the next shot at the top spot either after Contreras gives it a go or before if Maddon decides the hopefully soon-to-be former catcher won't handle it well.
That is, unless you want to rotate Jason Heyward (.355) and David Bote (.336) in there. I understand a hesitation to put Heyward in the top spot. He is coming off a multi-week run of better hitting during which he has actually raised his batting average above .270 (before it fell back to .266 over the weekend). You probably don't want to mess it up with the pressure of leading off.
At minimum, the leadoff guy needs to have an OBP of .333. That means of course that he is reaching one out of every three times. Below .333, no more leading off.
Hell, Victor Caratini boasts a robust .367 on-base percentage at this point, which has been compiled with considerably fewer at-bats than the other guys but still, his switch-hitting capabilities make him an intriguing candidate. And if you don't care about putting the slow Schwarber atop the lineup then you should be good with Caratini.
There is time in July to give a smarter lineup a decent look. I don't really believe team president Theo Epstein when he says big changes might be coming because I can't envision what that would be other than firing the manager (I don't think he will trade any of the guys with real trade value but I do suppose it is possible).
The All-Star Game arrives at a great time for the Cubs. Time for a big ol' reset to the fundamental lineup.
If the team is still scuffling in a couple weeks, have at it Theo.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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