The Cubs lineup, as currently constructed, has evidenced an obvious problem early this season. It has not one bona fide hitter. This fact holds back the Cubs in almost every series. A couple of guys get on base, and you start looking down the lineup for someone who you could count on to get a big base hit. And you keep looking…and looking…Rizzo hasn’t earned a reputation for that yet, Castro’s prolonged slump sees his average in the .250s – sometimes I think we’re more likely to walk in a run than hit it in with the bases loaded.
And this team is loaded with bad hitters. Guys who are poor to awful at getting hits. It might even be a record setting group before the year ends.
Right now, Nate Schierholtz is the only qualifier who is hitting above .280 – you have to go back to 2002 for a Cubs team that had only one player finish the year above that mark. In fact, from 2003-2010 at least 3 qualifiers finished above that mark (with 7 players accomplishing the feat in 2008). It was Sammy Sosa, who at .288 paced the 2002 squad. Most seasons (in large part thanks to Cub greats like Grace, Madlock, Santo, Banks, Sandberg, Williams, etc.) the Cubs had at least one player finish above .300 – so to not have a player crest .280 would be significant. Right now the only non-qualifiers above the mark are Ryan Sweeney and Travis Wood.
All Below .280
But what if Schierholtz drops below .280 and no one moves above that mark? That would be nearly unprecedented in Cub history. You have to go all the way back to 1917 for the last time that the franchise didn’t have a single qualifier finish with a batting average above .280 – 95 years! And it’s possible that we’re headed that way this year. Rizzo, Soriano, Castillo, DeJesus, and Castro could all finish above the mark and I wouldn’t be surprised. But none of them is a guarantee to get there at this point. Schierholtz’s career numbers have it possible that he’ll stay north of .280 – but not a certainty by any means.
Does It Matter?
For one year…no. It’ll be more of a novelty (in 2011 the Cubs had two hitters finish over .300 and it didn’t do them a lot of good). But to validate this rebuilding process, the Cubs need hitters – badly. So it does matter that the Cubs obtain and groom hitters. With Rizzo at the plate and the bases loaded in the 10th inning on Wednesday night, I couldn’t help but think that one run probably wasn’t going to do it. And with two outs, it seemed to be asking a lot for both Rizzo and Soriano to reach base. The Cubs needed a hit. From Rizzo. And thankfully he delivered a bases clearing double. When Kevin Gregg fell victim to Mark Trumbo in the following inning, the point was accentuated. They’re called hitters for a reason – not ‘base-reachers’ – and right now, the Cubs don’t have a single reliable ‘hitter.’