Ah, the Cubs Leadoff Hitter Problem Pops Up Again and Other Bullets

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Ah, the Cubs Leadoff Hitter Problem Pops Up Again and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I don’t care a lick about the NBA. Just not a basketball fan. Yet, every year at this time, I get sucked in by the national narratives of the NBA playoffs, and I start following from a distance. I might even watch a game or two. It’s weird.

  • It was only a matter of time before the write-ups on the Cubs’ leadoff situation began, and sure enough, you can read about it here at the Tribune and here at FanGraphs. Given that Ian Happ won a semi-regular job as the leadoff hitter in Spring Training, and then has followed that up by looking completely overwhelmed at the plate (his 47.2% strikeout rate and 21.4% swinging strike rate are the worst in baseball, and his 63.2% contact rate in the strike zone is second worst). You want to demonstrate belief in a guy and have the patience to let him adjust, lest you send him into a spiral of self-doubt in which his slump could extend even further. But at the same time, the Cubs can’t afford to have a hole at the top of the order, hitting in front of Bryant-Rizzo-Contreras for too long.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • Of course, if it’s not Happ, the Cubs will simple be left with the question they had in Spring Training: who even makes sense in the spot, given the typical starters? You could go with Ben Zobrist, given how he looks right now, but he won’t be able to play every day (for rest and match-up reasons). You could go with Albert Almora Jr., but has he had enough time against righties to show he can do it every day? And would he start every day in any case? Surely the Cubs wouldn’t put Kyle Schwarber back up there right now, especially when it looks like he’s continuing his success from the second half of 2017 while batting down in the order.
  • I think we’re going to see the Cubs give Happ just a little more time to demonstrate that he’s figured out whatever is plaguing him on his swings and misses in the strike zone (his biggest problem right now – he’s just flat out missing pitches), but Zobrist and Almora will work into the top of the lineup when they’re in.
  • Speaking of which:

  • It was always the case that the Cubs were open to Almora winning the full-time center field job (wherever he might hit in the order) when his time came. Now 24 and with so much experience in a reserve role, Almora will increasingly see time against righties (we’ve seen it carefully chosen already, late last year and then on into this season). If he continues to look improved against them, he’ll see more and more starts in center fielder, especially if Happ doesn’t adjust quickly. There are also – let’s be honest – some starts that Jason Heyward might start losing. In other words, I don’t know that we’ll see Almora become an everyday player in the first half of the season (absent injury), but he could nevertheless make more starts than he has before.
  • The Bricks and Ivy Ball appears to have been a good time:


  • Just something fun to check out:

  • Amazon has a bunch of deals going on right now for home stuff – it’s a “home refresh” kind of thing for spring. Worth poking around, because there’s a bunch of random home stuff on sale that you might need anyway.
  • Hey, Sahadev Sharma and I are back at it with a new episode of our very periodic podcast, Limited Range:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.