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The Cubs have lost six in a row, and have scored just 21 runs in that stretch (most of which came in meaningless 9th inning rallies). When a team’s offense is scuffling this badly, there’s usually little you can do but ride it out, and hope the law of averages evens things out.

The problem for the Cubs? Their offense isn’t particularly good, and the recent slump might actually *BE* the law of averages evening things out. So, if the Cubs are hoping to score more runs, and aren’t planning to add another bat out of nowhere (at least not for a few weeks), they’ll have to play around at the margins.

And that means batting order changes.

“I might think about changing things at the top of the order,” Dale Sveum said to reporters yesterday. “It’s not that anybody is doing anything wrong but just to change something because we aren’t producing any runs that way. We might change things up there.

“We need some production,” Sveum added, “and the bottom line is two months into the season, we have to start producing or we’re going to have to start making some changes.”

At a quick glance, things look OK in the top three in the lineup. David DeJesus has a .360 OBP, Tony Campana has a .356 OBP, and Starlin Castro is hitting .313. But if you dig a little deeper, you see two guys who are regressing badly in Campana and Castro, and who each seem miscast in their present role. Campana doesn’t hit well with runners on in front of him, and Castro presses whenever there are ducks on the pond.

Castro’s slump has been the deepest and most disconcerting, as his season line is down to .313/.324/.422. That OBP, especially given the batting average, is unacceptable.

What might Sveum do? Well, given Castro’s stats, it wouldn’t make much sense to move him up in the order, but batting first or second is certainly where he had the most success last year. And it would be nice to see Bryan LaHair getting at bats in the first inning, rather than repeatedly leading off innings while batting fourth.

For my part, I’d like to see what Castro could do batting second, with LaHair batting third. DeJesus can stay in leadoff, and Campana can bat down in the order (in fact, I might even say something insane like … bat Campana 9th). As for what Sveum will actually do, if he reshuffles only the guys in the top three, I wonder if he might consider leading off with Campana, batting Castro second, and then batting DeJesus third.

What are your thoughts on a reconfigured lineup? What would you like to see, and what do you think Sveum might do?

  • DrCubbie

    I like your idea of Campana 9th. Hell, why not play Mather in the OF more and sit the ever bunting Campana.

  • TrueblueCubbie

    I will believe it when I see it. I don’t see him doing anything big though. Every time we have heard about changes in the last 5 or 6 years, it is something very very minor and small.

  • random_monkey

    I don’t think leading off with Campana is such a crazy idea. DeJesus has been getting some nice hits in the leadoff spot lately (Bob Brenly said it well with “And DeJesus gets another trademark double to start the ballgame”).

    I’m not saying it’s gonna work everytime, but if Campana can get on with free space infront of him to run in, then DeJesus can work to drive him home.

    I’m not sure about Castro following Campana though. We’ve seen a couple of times this season where Campana has wanted to run and Castro has got into an early x-2 count, and had to take defensive swings into foul territory, which doesn’t always let Campana advance.

    Either way, the worst that can happen is they lose yet another game, may aswell mix things up and see what happens.

    • Wilbur

      I agree with your logic. If De Jesus can get those two base hits with Campana or Castro on it could turn into runs, and get’s LaHair more first inning ABs.

      Not season changing stuff, but it’s at least working on the margin to improve with what you have.

  • Brian

    When its not broken don’t fix it, but, when you have problems, start shuffling.
    I think we need the injuries to stop, so some semblance of normal can be found.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I liked Dale’s quote over the weekend, something about putting up crooked numbers.
    Well Dale, if you want a crooked number, STOP BUNTING with your #2 hitter.

    • Brian

      Is it Dale, or is it Campana? Campana bunting and hitting the ball is just about the same thing.

      • art

        i recall dale saying Campana has to bunt at least once a game. IMO he stinks at bunting and has no power. looks like he has less power than Barney, lol.

        platoon Mather/Reed/Campana till Szczur and or Jackson get here in 2013. guys are supposed to get better in the minors, Jackson seems to be going backwards. maybe bad coaching.

      • Alou and Vinegar

        It’s Campana. His best chance of getting a hit is to bunt, and with a guy on base if he gets thrown out it just goes down as a sacrifice.  This is a big reason why his batting average is still above .300.  I think he needs to bat somewhere without Castro behind him to give him the chance to run. If he is not given this chance, then you’d be better off all around to play Mather in place of him.

  • Dan

    Hmm, its a tough call. The Cubs don’t really have any run producers. They can shake the line-up but its not going to do much. The solution is Rizzo, Jackson, etc. The Cubs can’t do much but just wait it out a little. It’s time for these young kids to play ball in the majors. Also, I think Cardenas just needs to play everyday. He doesn’t look comfortable at all. Either play him or just send him down. Its hard for a young kid to produce playing in a limited role.

  • HuskerCub

    I am becoming a little concerned with Castro’s approach at the plate. The guy swings at everything. 2 HRs and 4 BB out of your three hole hitter is horrible at this point in the season. How about:

    Campana
    DeJesus
    LaHair
    Mather (Soriano’s legs are gone)
    Castro
    Stewart
    Barney
    Catcher of the day
    Pitcher

  • King Jeff

    I think Castro needs to move up to two, and that means Campana has to go low in the order because of Castro’s free swinging. I think Campana might slot in nicely at 7 in front of Barney. I like the idea of LaHair hitting third, but that means Soriano would hit cleanup, and with the catching situation, that would make the bottom of the lineup even worse if that’s possible. Lot’s of problems for Svuem, but glad he’s willing to try new things.

    • rcleven

      I could even see flipping Castro to lead off. DeJesus hitting second. Campana hitting late in the order is something I have suggested before. I just did not have him slotted at seven. Hitting in front Barney is very interesting because it gives Campana plenty of room to use his speed.

  • Mike

    The phrase “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind.

    • Edwin

      What if on the Titantic they had rearranged the deck chairs into a lifeboat? Or better yet, another Titanic! I totally would have done that.

  • magilljl

    I like the idea of getting Mather in the lineup more. Even if its just to see if he can produce more regularly or if he’s a pinch hit wonder.

  • Paul

    can you say last place Castro in 2 hole LaHair 3rd Rizzo 4th

  • mark

    I have Campana hitting .375 RISP, with DeJesus at .233 and Castro .353. Castro is obviously pressing lately, for whatever reason. I think any of these guys would do well leading off–as DeJesus has been doing. Castro normally comes out of a funk quickly, but I agree he’s not the guy you want as number 3, not at this point. The problem to me is not lack of good 1-2 guys but lack of reliable middle of the order guys. A productive Rizzo in the lineup would solve a lot of these problems.

  • Yohler

    I think moving Campana to the bottom of the order alleviates two problems: Him trying to bunt to set the table and the middle of the order swinging to protect his steal attempts.

    My order:
    DeJesus
    Castro
    LaHair
    Mather/Sori
    Stewart
    Catcher
    Barney
    Campana
    Pitcher

    • Brian

      Nice, unless catcher= K. Hill!!

      • Yohler

        agreed… i think he’ll be gone shortly, just filling a need.

  • Edwin

    How about DeJesus leading off, LaHair batting 2nd, Castro 3rd, Soriano 4th, and Campana 9th.

    Dejesus has the best OBP, and Lahair has been the best hitter. It’ll max out the number of At bats that Lahir gets, while still having two position players in front of him for later innings. LaHair should get plenty of opportunities that way.

    Campana seems to do best when he can either bunt or beat out an infield single. This is much harder to do when there are men on base. Putting the pitcher in front of Campana gives Campana a better chance of hitting with the bases empty, where he is at his best. He’s never going to drive in many runs anyways.

    I know it means Castro doesn’t switch spots, but I think it’s still the best spot for him. I’d rather leave him there and let him work through it.

  • Stu

    The Cubs are going to be sellers by the trade deadline. Attendance by then might actually affect the bottom line and there is still a lot of debt to pay down by Ricketts. When in doubt, follow the money.

    By then we should see a lineup on the order of:

    DeJesus
    Castro
    LaHair
    Rizzo
    Stewart
    Castillo/Clevenger
    Cardenas
    Campana
    Pitcher

    Dempster/Garza probably gone too for prospects. The promotions will focus hard on looking to the future, come to the park for the fun/family, etc. They have to keep the revenue up to pay the debt down.

    The Bulls went through horrible years after the Jordan era and were banking major bucks based on the afterglow of the champions. The Cubs will do the same after the drunkin sailor days of spending. Sorry.

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    My college roommate learned a bunch of baseball through osmosis after not knowing anything this semester. We went and saw Moneyball together as well. Whenever we engage in any sort of baseball video/board game, he just organizes them from highest OBP to lowest.

    So here is Matt’s new Cubs lineup for 2012:

    LaHair 1B
    DeJesus RF
    Campana CF
    Castro SS
    Barney 2B
    Soriano LF
    Stewart 3B
    HealthyPlayer C
    Pitcher

    …he’s still got a bit to learn.

  • rbreeze

    I agree HuskerCub.  Castro is not being disciplined at the plate right now.  He is swinging at too many bad pitches.  If Soriano’s knee needs surgery then get him out of here and have it done.  Why wait?  Put Mather in his place and/or maybe shut Soriano down and bring up Rizzo and Jackson and let them play the second half of the season.  Nothing to lose at this point.

    This team is going through so much transition right now its going to be a mess, a big mess for a while.  Injuries, retirement (K. Wood), a revolving door in the bullpen, trying to find some hitting.  The most secure job on the Cubs right now is the bus driver between Iowa and Wrigley. 

    We have very little power in the lineup.  The White Sox have more pop in their line up and that was the difference this weekend.  I’d offer a lineup but it could be futile the way the bottom half of the lineup is not hitting.  I always liked Castro and Barney at the top.  They had some success.

    1. Castro
    2. Barney
    3. LaHair
    4. Stewart
    5. Mather
    6. DeJesus
    7. Catcher
    8. Campana
    9. Pitcher
  • djriz

    It seems a bit strange complaining about a .310 hitter, but I’m not sure that open batting stance is doing Castro any favors. It seems a lot times his weight shift is over before the bat hits the ball, thus preventing him from driving the ball.
    If you bat him second, and square him up a bit at the plate, he’ll hit better. ( I still don’t think he has the ‘make-up’, at this point, to be a three hitter. Brett calls it trying to hard, I’ll call it a bad hitting approach).

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “It seems a bit strange complaining about a .310 hitter”  heh, worrying about BA is a bit 1980’s, isn’t it?  It is not strange to complain about a 0.325 (OBP) hitter.  However, I suspect that this is just a small sample size issue.  At any rate, I really doubt that the spot in the order has anything to do with it: for all the talk of “more/fewer fastballs,” everybody posts about the same numbers no matter where they bat in the order.  Castro is no exception: his numbers this year (almost entirely at #3) are entirely in keeping with his career numbers.  Yes, his OBP is low: but that’s because he’s taken only 4 walks instead of the expected 9.  It’s not like he’s gone from Sammy Sosa to Shawon Dunston here!

      That being written, I would prefer to see Castro in the #2 spot.  The #2 hitter should be what everyone thought that the #3 hitter should be.  Shift LaHair up a slot, and drop Campana to the bottom of the order.  Besides, Campana’s speed will create more runs that otherwise would not have scored if he steals in front of guys like Barney than if he steals in front fo guys like Castro & LaHair.

  • Spoda17

    Not sure why Campana is not getting any love from you all… I think he has proven to be a… and I hate to use this term… a “spark-plug” in the lineup and does impact the pitcher… My lineup is…

    Campana
    Castro
    LaHair
    Stewart
    Soriano/Mather
    DeJesus
    Barney/2B
    Catcher
    Pitcher

    But I have to say, if Sveum does mess with the lineup, he can’t go friggin changing it daily, or make crazy substitutions during the game, and just give it a week or so to really see if it does work.

    • King Jeff

      I think you are misreading what some of us are saying about Campana. My reasoning for moving him is so that he would provide a spark for the bottom of the lineup that has been listless. Hitting him in front of the more patient and fundamentally sound Barney would also help his stealing of bases. I think he’s wasted in front of Castro, and if he’s up there just to move DeJesus over. Let him work his way on from the 7 or 8 hole and give that part of the order a little momentum.

  • Cubs Dude

    I think they have to move Castro back to lead off. He will see more strikes and fastballs, and I don’t know that he will ever be a patient enough hitter to be a good middle of the order guy, and his obp is ridiculous right now.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Again, Castro’s numbers this year are indistinguishable from the last three years.  The whole “he’ll see more fastballs” is a red herring: pitchers pitch to the weaknesses of the batter at the plate, not according to some “well, it’s the leadoff hitter, so I have to throw a fastball here even though this guy kills fastballs.”  Moreover, why throw fastballs to an NL leadoff hitter?  More than any other batter, he’ll be up there with nobody on base OR a guy who does not run well on the bases.  Isn’t that the best time to throw breaking stuff that might get past a catcher?

    • Drew7

      I agree that his OBP is rediculous, which is why I’d hate to see him bat leadoff.

      That spot needs someone that actually gets on base. If hes not patient onough to be in the middle of the order, hes certainly not patient enough to hit at the top.

      I know some people say he will see more fastballs, but I just don’t believe that to be true; Big-league pitchers pitch to the batter, not the spot in the order. All of the MLB knows Castro chases bad pitches consistantly, so I don’t see them pumping him fastballs all day just because hes batting leadoff (That exact argument was given by people wanting to see Soriano back at the top during the offseason).

      I’m a fan of Dejesus at the top, followed by Castro, Lahair, and Rizzo when he comes up.

  • GeorgeHermanLaHair

    I kind of like this…

    Castro
    Barney
    DeJesus
    Lahair
    Soriano
    Stewart
    Catcher (not Koyie Hill)
    Campana

  • Terry

    I agree Castro needs to be leading off but then I would have Campana batting second because I think he has had an impact.

    • GeorgeHermanLaHair

      I don’t understand the Campana batting second idea. If he is going to be at the top he needs to be batting leadoff. This would be fine as well.

      Campana
      Castro
      DeJesus
      LaHair
      Soriano
      Stewart
      Catcher
      Barney

  • EQ76

    1. Castro
    2. DeJesus
    3. LaHair
    4. Soriano/Mather… until Rizzo
    5. Barney
    6. Stewart
    7. (catcher)
    8. Campana

  • Cubs Dude

    If the Cubs are truly going to make a last ditch effort like Brett mentions in the other post. Why not put Soriano in the optimal lineup spot to see the best pitches. I think that is in front of Lahair. I go Castro, Sori, and Lahair. Plus Castro was running like crazy early in the year at all those low and away sliders that Sori gets when Sori was batting 4th. So the other team either pitches Sori fastballs or Castro runs all over them. I don’t want to see Sori that early in the lineup, but at this point what does it matter?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      PItchers are not going to change the way they approach Sori or any other batter just because of who is behind him.  That might have been the case years ago: but now all of these pitchers get to look at “heat maps” showing what a batter does and does not hit well; they get to watch copious videos of the batters on their iPhones to see what releases a batter does and does not pick up well.  In short, the (electronic) book is for the batter, not the lineup slot.

      The book on Sori says that he can be fooled with the sort of sliders that look like outer half fastballs.  Therefore, pitchers will (and do) throw him that pitch.  If it costs a stolen base, then so be it: better a stolen base & a K than an extra base hit with a guy on first.

      • Cubs Dude

        Well then Castro can run all day and lead the league in stolen bases. Sounds good to me… I get that pitchers aren’t going to start throwing Sori fastballs down the middle all day (that would be idiotic). But you can honestly tell me that he won’t see even slightly better pitches with LaHair hitting behind him as opposed to some of the other scrubs in the lineup?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Yes, I can honestly say that I think that Sori will see the same pitches with LaHair batting behind him until Sori demonstrates to other teams that he’ll consistently lay off of low outside sliders.  (At this point, that’s like trying to teach a color-blind man to see red.)  Indeed, with LaHair behind Sori, the pitchers are going to have even more inclination to risk a wild pitch and get Sori out than otherwise: not even the Yankees have discovered a way to drive in runners sitting on the bench.

          • Cubs Dude

            Well, Ok… Castro, can go crazy on the base paths then. Which would be the same thing as a sacrifice if Sori just K’s on the junk in the dirt. Hell, sometimes Castro could steal 3rd too, which would be like 2 sacrifices for Sori. I would take that along with him every once in a while getting a hit.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Wow, people’s impression’s of Castro’s performance this year are way off.  Again, it’s a small sample size issue and NONE of the numbers here deviate significantly from single rate processes.  However, if you buy 7 weeks of play, then you would not want Castro batting leadoff given how he bats with nobody on base (noRo):

    noRo: .271/.295/.435

    Ro1B: .367/.387/.433

    RiSP: .353/.333/.392

    So, basically, Castro has done best with men on base, with men in scoring position or just first not making any difference.  Of course, given the tiny sample sizes involved, none of the actual numbers are any different.

    • Noah

      Doc, I agree completely about the small sample size. But there is a preliminary sign of some concern (if it continues over a larger sample size) in the RiSP numbers: his OBP is lower than his average and his ISO is microscopic. Like you said, small sample size, but the narrative for Castro is that he becomes impatient when put into a typical “run producing” role. Whether the narrative is ultimately true or random chance, we’ll need a much larger sample size to see.

      Either way, Castro is better used in the 2 hole. It’s just a more important spot in the line up.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Castro’s numbers with runners in scoring position are (superficially) much better than his numbers with the bases empty and essentially identical to his numbers with men on first base only.

        But I agree that Castro should be in the #2 slot: that is where the best overall hitter should go.  Castro’s very poor line with the bases empty is just a sample size fluke and will not carry over into that slot.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          What concerns me about Castro is his approach.
          He is swinging and missing more than ever, and worse than even a league average hitter.
          He is swinging at 45% of the pitches outside of the strike zone (3rd most in baseball). Last year it was 33%.
          (I’m not sure how accurate this Fangraphs data is…I’ve seen people suggest “outside the strikezone” data should not be used)

          • Cubs Dude

            Yeah, I think he is definitely pressing now and trying to provide power hitting out of the 3rd spot. IMO he will be ok, but he does need to be more patient.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Prior to this year, Castro’s K rate was 14%.  This year, Castro’s K rate with the bases empty is 15%.  With runners in scoring position, his K rate is 16%.  With a man on first only, it is 13%.  His career rate is 14%.  If he really was swinging and missing that much more often because of the pressures of batting with men on base, then we should see a much bigger increase in K’s with RiSP or even just men on first than we are seeing.  (It’s slightly low: but keep in mind that he’s within 2 Ks of the expectation under all splits this year.)

            So, his current swing and miss proportions almost certainly are a sample size blip.

  • HuskerCub

    Combine that with his low OBP and it makes no sense to bat him near the top of the order.

  • Noah

    Here’s my issue with batting LaHair third: if he is going to lead off the second, that means he’s going to just come up with 2 outs and nobody on batting third.

    Like we tweeted a bit about yesterday, the real problem is that the Cubs need better players. This is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, as far as this year is concerned. With that said, in an attempt to make a more appealing deck:

    I keep DeJesus at number 1. He walks in nearly 10 percent of his plate appearances, and while Campana’s OBP right now is close to DeJesus’, Campana has a .391 BABIP. I don’t care how many times he bunts, that’s not sustainable.

    I move Castro to 2. Despite the fact that I hate these kind of descriptions, I think Castro does press to make contact in what he views as run producing spots. His patience thus far this year has been terrible, and I think he’s more comfortable in the 2 spot to continue working on that.

    I keep LaHair at 4 to try and maximize run scoring situations.

    And then you have the situation where you have a bunch of guys you’d prefer to have hitting 6th or below, or be on the bench, to fill out all the other spots on the line up. For the current line up for the week, Soriano and Stewart would be 3 and 5 (I don’t particularly care which is which). Now that Stewart has had some balls drop for hits (although still with just a .256 BABIP in May), his May triple slash is a respectable .246/.338/.456. He’s cut the Ks down from his Colorado days without losing the walks as well. And Soriano at least has the possibility of hitting for power.

    Then I’d probably go Campana 6th, Barney 7th, Hill 8th. Once Castillo and Clevenger are healthy in a week or so I’d go Campana 6th, Catcher 7th, Barney 8th. Hope Campana can get on base in any way possible, steal second, and one of the catcher or Barney can drive him in.

    Hopefully by August, though, the lineup we’re looking at is more like this:
    RF DeJesus
    SS Castro
    1B Rizzo
    LF LaHair
    3B Stewart
    CF Jackson
    C Castillo/Clevenger
    2B Barney

    On days that Clevenger starts, that would be the most left handed Cubs line up I could remember.

  • Mrp

    I honestly wouldn’t mind having DeJesus and Campana switch spots. That would give Campana more pitches to try and steal a base.

  • willis

    You have Soriano, for better or for worse. I’d do this once Clevenger is back:

    DeJesus
    Castro
    Soriano
    LaHair
    Stewart
    Clevenger
    Mather
    Barney/Baker/Cardenas (whatever black hole is occupying 2nd that day)

    I don’t buy Campana as an every day major league player. And if the Cubs do, they’ll never win shit. He is a pinch runner at best.

    Bigger problem is until Clevenger comes back, there is no option at catcher that will actually make this lineup better. Obviously Hill is terrible and Lalli is not good with the bat. So you’re handicapped from the jump. Once Clevenger is back, this changes and the lineup has much more pop. Until then, the 7-9 spots are basically auto outs and the team will struggle with runs.

  • Cheryl

    Can’t move Castro to #1 he still swings at too many bad balls. More likely woud be #2 or #7. Campana moving down and away from Castro would give him more of a chance to run. LaHair could move up to #3 but Rizzo may be more comfortabe there than at #4.

    DeJeuus
    Castro
    Rizzo
    LaHair
    Stewart
    Campana
    Barney
    catcher
    pitcher

    unless there are more callups or trades.I wouldn’t be surprised if LaHair is traded. He’s become more valuable in compaison to some of the other players.

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