Game Planning Issues Again and Other Bullets

carlos villanueva the stacheThat Cubs/White Sox game that was rained out has finally be rescheduled: it’ll be July 8 at 7:10pm CT at the Cell.

  • Dale Sveum talked yesterday about moving Starlin Castro down the lineup, largely to try and take some pressure off of the young shortstop, who is mired in a season-long slump. Sveum wonders if the issue is mechanical. “We’ve talked about some things with his mechanics,” Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “When you have a leg kick, you have to be careful about having your hands drift when your front foot hits the ground. [Anthony] Rizzo has a little bit of the same problem a lot of times. It’s a fine line.” At just 23 and in a lost season, it certainly feels like the right time to be working with Castro’s approach at the plate and his swing mechanics, even if it means pain in the near-term.
  • Carlos Villanueva says he simply missed his spot on the 89 mph fastball that Albert Pujols jacked for a two-run homer last night, which turned the Cubs’ win into a loss. Dale Sveum, on the other hand, says that was a pitch that never should have been thrown in the first place. “We were not supposed to even come close to calling or throwing that pitch in that situation,” Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “It’s the human factor. Somewhere along the line, we lose the scouting report from the bullpen to the mound.” I feel like Sveum has pointed to this as an issue consistently all year, which makes me wonder: does this happen all the time on other teams, and Sveum is simply more open to talking about it? Is the game planning simply more important to this Cubs coaching staff, and so it becomes a focal point when things go wrong? Or is there some particular problem with Cubs pitchers/catchers/coaches when it comes to developing and sticking to a game plan? I’m not sure, but you’d like to see these kinds of mistakes stop happening.
  • Jeff Samardzija explained his verbal tussle with the Diamondbacks this weekend – turns out the D-Backs were the ones doing the grousing, complaining to Samardzija for throwing inside on Ian Kennedy. Samardzija says he wasn’t trying to hit the opposing pitcher, he was just losing the ball inside a bit.
  • Iowa’s manager says that Junior Lake will indeed be primarily playing third base and center field, which is interesting because of the presence of Josh Vitters (though he’s on the DL) and Brett Jackson.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

38 responses to “Game Planning Issues Again and Other Bullets”

  1. Kevin F.

    I think the “human factor”/scouting thing goes on on a regular basis, and Sveum simply admitted it. I can recall dozens of such occurrences over the years, where after the game the pitcher, catcher or mgr/coach will refer to a pitch that shouldn’t have been thrown to a particular player, as discussed before the game. A Mark Grace game-winning homer off Randy Myers in ’89 is one I clearly recall. (Then you have Lee Elia not knowing then-rookie Gerald Perry while Dallas Green said sure, we have a report on him.)

    1. Ivy Walls

      Someone will have to be disciplined to make the point.

      Carlos is owed $5M each of the two years,

  2. JoyceDaddy

    With the ceiling that Junior Lake has, I hope he puts it together to succeed at the major league level.

  3. Werner

    Did the scouting report say don’t toss the Albert guy a pitch with a pretty bow and sign that says “Murder Me” on it?

    1. willis

      Yeah that was just bad pitch selection. With his past, I wouldn’t have minded just putting him on intentionally. He was just sitting, waiting on one pitch, he got it and sent it into orbit.

      1. Jay

        Exactly. I’m sure nowhere in the scouting report did it say 89 mph meatballs down the middle are what you throw to Albert. So obviously he wasn’t trying to throw it there. Not sure why you’re throwing Albert ANY kind of fastball in that situation. Maybe that’s what Dale means.

  4. Oswego chris

    Okay…I know I should have the answer to this…but who is calling the pitches?…when I was a high school coach we always called them…from what I understand, in the big leagues the catcher calls them after pre game scouting with pitching coach and pitcher…

    I am a little disappointed in Svuem…he is the manager, he needs to get the pitch he wants…call timeout if u have to and say, “whatever you do, don’t throw 89 down the middle”

    This type of thing should never happen at the big league level…and the buck stops with him..

    Please note this is my first ever criticism of Dale as I don’t like to just always blame the manager

    1. Joker

      Agreed. Sveum needs to be a little more hands-on in the approach. Going over scouting reports and allowing the players to grow in their abilities to incorporate the reports into their games is one thing, but when they clearly are struggling, you have to intercede.

      Give them a big box to operate in at first and when/if they can’t handle it, shrink the box and guide them until they learn to operate with more freedom. If the plan is rebuilding with on the job training then he needs to give them the training and guidance they need to succeed.

      If they continue to fail without guidance (both IN GAME and OUT) then it’s a leadership problem. If they can’t get it with guidance, it’s a talent issue for the players. Until then, Sveum needs to do his part, keep morale up, and stop airing out his players in the media.

    2. Jay

      That would reduce the game to a crawl. These guys are supposed to be big leaguers and able to figure it out for themselves after going over the scouting report. The catcher calls, or rather, suggests a pitch and the pitcher either nods his head yes or shakes it no, call something else. Occasionally the catcher will receive the calls for pitches from the dugout if he’s really green but not usually.

      1. Joker

        I am not saying it needs to happen every at bat or inning. But when you have Albert Pujols up there in a critical AB, good managers will err on the side of caution and go out to discuss things to make sure everyone is on the same page. Especially when you have a young catcher and a pitcher who is a journeyman at best out there in a critical situation.

  5. Rizzo 44

    I was watching the game last night and before Albert stepped into the box I said don’t throw him a first pitch fastball. Of course that is what CV threw. I can’t believe that was the pitch selection he a WC were going with that first pitch to AP. I only have one thing to say about this team. Mental Errors!!! Castro doesn’t pay attention enough. Example first inning last night on the Trout groundball, Borbon on the missed pop fly the other day, to the BP just throwing up prayers to good hitters late in games, and Marmol is just awful. The Cubs have a lack of leadership in the Coaching staff IMO. Castro can’t hit right now because they have messed with his swing and approach so much that he is no longer hacks when he should be and they have him thinking to much. Just let the kid play or trade him. I am on board with rebuilding the system from the bottom up, but this is just getting ridiculous in so many ways it isn’t even funny anymore. Sveum needs to get a little harder on these guys or he needs to go.

  6. CM

    Castro might want to spend more time in the dugout pre game contemplating his approach vs gawking at the stripper three rows in front of me with the huge rack. Ditto of Soriano and Castillo.

    1. Feeney

      Castro is in a prolonged slump in part because he is thinking too much and trying to change his approach. I actually think he should spend more time looking at the stripper and less time in his own head thinking about his at bats.

      1. CM

        You are probably right. He was a much better hitter when his approach was simply “go up there and hit.”

        I got a hilarious photo of Shark, Garza and Wood all turned around trying not to look like there were staring at this girl. Within moments, Castro, Castillo and Sori were all in on the action.

        1. Jay

          Completely agree about Castro. Been trumpeting that point for over a year. Got any pics of the chick you can post? :-D

          1. CM

            I took a photo of her, unfortunately the guy in the row in front if me with the Santo jersey had a hat on, and the bill of his hat blocked out the “distractions”.

  7. jt

    I wonder how much longer Maysonet, Nelson and McDonald will be at Iowa?

    1. Cedlandrum

      Nelson won’t be going anywhere. They don’t have anyone else who can play 1st. They had Lillibridge there earlier this week.

  8. DarthHater

    I think Sveum’s remarks about losing the scouting report amount to big-time self-criticism. It’s his job to make sure crap like that doesn’t happen. If it’s happening repeatedly, the problem is with the manager. If he can’t fix it, find someone who can.

  9. BigPappa

    Watching the game last night, the announcers at least thought the Cubs had a game plan to make Weaver throw a bunch of pitches. This seemed to be true in some cases and then someone would come up and hack at the 1st pitch usually out of the strike zone. What do you think, were the Cubs trying to be patient and get Weaver’s pitch count up, or was it just a coincidence? I think if they really did have that game plan anyone that swung at a pitch before getting a called strike should be fined.

  10. Pauly

    Good grief. Does Sveum work for the White House?

  11. Blublud

    Sveum needs to STFU sometimes. He talk to damn much. None of his players are going to want to play for him before too long. He throws everybody under the bus, but never takes the blame. Pujols despite struggling, is still Pujols. If he had to, he could have takena trip to the mound and stated what he neded to state. It was a bad pitch, we all saw that. No need to always shit on your players.

    1. Rizzo 44

      Agree 100%

    2. X the Cubs Fan

      Yeah no manger talks shit about their players as consistently and blatantly as Svuem. Id rather have Lou.

    3. mjhurdle

      Couldn’t agree less.
      Obviously the caveat that I do not know the entire situation applies, but if Sveum and the staff had a game plan, and went over the game plan pre-game, and part of that gameplan was specifically ‘do not throw anything resembling a fastball to Albert Pujols’ and the pitcher still goes out there and throws a fastball, i have no problem with this. No need to baby someone if they either dis-regarded instructions from the coaching staff, or are not capable of paying attention/remembering instructions from the coaching staff.

      Not only that, but it demonstrates that Sveum probably understands his players more than the average fan. V has always seemed to be the guy to take the criticism well. I am sure he would be the first one to admit this was his mistake, if that is what happened.

      1. frank

        mjhurdle–I agree. Even I know not to throw Pujols a fastball down the middle–especially if you can only throw it at 89 mph. Even I know that you don’t consider, dream, reflect upon, or otherwise come close to thinking about that pitch in that situation. The age or status of the pitcher and catcher, in this case, are not excuses. They are both professional baseball players who presumably went over a game plan with the manager and coaches beforehand.

    4. Fakko

      I disagree…These are adults and major league ball players. Take the nipple out of thier mouths and stop babying the players. In my opinion, Sveum is not overly bashing players but stating that these errors of judgement, are noted and not acceptable. Also, he is acknowleding that there is a habit of these errors repeating themselves. All he states to the media is honesty and not the bland reoccuring PC statements. I am a firm believer in not beating around the bush, and just man up for your mistakes (job performance). Work on these mistakes and be rewarded when corrected. This is the MLB and being a MLB ballplayer/manager/coach is going to be in the spotlight (enough secrets).

    5. Al

      I love this. When Sveum criticizes players he’s throwing everyone under the bus. When he doesn’t bench a player for a mistake, he’s too easy on them and he needs to make a statement. The manager can only manage, and when he’s got a bunch of crappy players, there’s only so much you can expect out of him.

      Let me see – the 2013 Cubs bullpen gave up a lead late in the game to one of the best hitters of all time. Somehow, I am neither shocked nor upset.

  12. Kenster

    Still have to mention Henry Rodriguez was DFA’d..

  13. Cedlandrum

    With Lake playing center I think that is a good thing. Jackson has been playing left more recently anyway. Jackson you could tell was still not over the toe issue when I was at the game last weekend. He hobbled a little bit. Playing left is probably a good thing for him right now.

    1. Ivy Walls

      I think Lake needs at least six weeks in AAA. If he is ready to play at least two OF positions and two IF positions he would allow the Cubs to make a few lower roster trades.

      Got to think that Hairston in the OF is the first one to go in a minor deal, then either Ransom, but it gets into the meat of the roster when Cubs begin to move a player like Barney.

      Lake could be an interesting player like Infante or Prado and if Lake really can rake and learn the BIG GAME he will find a position, esp with the arm he has as well.

  14. Spencer

    Maybe they should start calling pitches from the dugout. That way this can’t be an excuse after every home run that’s given up.

  15. funkin cubs

    I think Castro should try the old mark grace slump buster. Worked every time!

  16. Justin

    So the Soriano for Dominic Brown rumors before the season?? Wow.. Just wow. I really hope the Phils didn’t offer that deal for my own sanity.

    1. Craig

      I don’t think the Phillies were interested in trading Brown for Soriano. I think Theo would of jumped at that. I think it was more speculation than anything. Although if they had a chance to get Brown, they sure blew it

  17. BABIP (MichCubFan)

    Here is Castro’s problem right now:

    He is striding too early which means that his foot is getting down too early…which is not a normal problem. Most people get their foot down too late, especially when they are struggling. The foot landing triggers the swing, which is too early. That means the body is starting to drive and turn, but the hands have to stay back to be able to wait for the ball. I don’t know if that is what Sveum means by saying that his hands are drifting or not.

    He needs to let the ball travel into him a little more which is how good hitters drive the ball with a quick swing.

    That is the mechanical fix that he needs to get out of his slump. His overall approach at the plate is an issue for a different post.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.