MILWAUKEE -- That patience that Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has shown while working with a young roster is starting to wear thin and seems to be taking him toward a breaking point.
The Cubs have settled into some major struggles this month, and the progress of late June and July is all but a memory.
As of Tuesday the Cubs were back on pace to lose 100 games, and they entered play Wednesday last in the National League in runs, hits, on-base percentage and walks.
“There are a lot of young things going on right now that are starting to be glaring things,” Sveum said. “We’re not producing enough winning at-bats at all to win baseball games. They are not winning at-bats whatsoever.”
Loses have mounted steadily since July 31, a byproduct of a lineup that has gone young with guys like Anthony Rizzo, Bret Jackson and Josh Vitters, not to mention a young catching corps as well as recent offensive struggles from Starlin Castro, who is actually still the youngest of the Cubs regulars.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it does get frustrating to lose and be behind in ballgames constantly to where our closer has gotten three save opportunities in the month of August,” Sveum said. “We have to obviously start putting things together and put things on the board early and get leads and stay on top. But it’s very difficult when you’re not getting people on base.”
Just because Sveum knew that struggles would be ahead with a young lineup, it doesn’t make it easier to live through it now that those struggles are here.
“We’re super young right now,” Sveum said. “That’s part of the gig, and we knew it so you’re going to struggle with those kind of things. But if you are going to struggle I’d like to have some kind of game plan and not go down liking so much in key situations when guys are in scoring position and things like that. We have to be a lot more aggressive in those situations. You have to turn into wining hitters. You can’t be hit chasers, you have to turn into winning hitters.”
At the start of play Wednesday, Rizzo had just three extra-base hits this month, Jackson was batting .176 and Vitters was batting .122.
“You have to stay on them about keeping your head up, which the atmosphere has been fine,” Sveum said. “The atmosphere in the dugout has been OK in all that. You don’t see a lot of hanging your head or anything like that. But the process of just grinding at-bats out has to get better. We’re not grinding at-bats out. We’re really passive hitting right now. It’s almost like we’re afraid to make mistakes and that’s what you’re going to do. You can’t be afraid to fail at this level, and it looks like that is what we’re going through right now.”
As for being back on 100-loss pace, Sveum can’t worry about it. His only option is to press on and strive for those better at-bats.
“Everybody knows that the 100-loss thing is obviously a (reality), but in a baseball season you’re still going day to day and not worried about the final outcome of your record as much as winning that day,” Sveum said. “That’s the bottom line. Obviously nobody wants to lose 100 games, but you just have to plug away every single day to grind it out. We have to start grinding. That’s the bottom line. You have to grind things out.”