CHICAGO – There is no way for Cubs manager Sale Sveum to sugar-coat it when it comes to a club with aggressive tendencies at the plate.
Yes, the Cubs do swing early in counts. No, they won’t be among the league leaders in walks or even pitches seen.
Since teaching old dogs completely new tricks would probably work against Sveum’s best intentions, he instead advocates a logical approach if his players must attack early in counts.
“It’s one thing to be aggressive but you don’t want to be swinging at [first] pitches that you can’t hit out of a ballpark,” Sveum said.
In other words, that first pitch you’re about to swing at better be a fat and juicy fastball down the inside half of the plate.
“You don’t want to swing at down and away on the black, something you’re going to hit a single on the other way,” Sveum said. “That’s not what you’re looking for when you’re swinging at the first pitch.”
It’s not as if the Cubs are completely incapable of taking walks, though. Before play Tuesday their 12 walks were exactly middle of the pack in the National League, nowhere near league-leading San Diego (22), but far from trailing Pittsburgh (five).
It wasn’t like Sveum was among the league leaders in walks during his playing days either so he knows the mindset of the less-than-patient hitter. He’ll feel much better about things if they can completely embrace his strategy for attacking early.
“A lot of times when you’re aggressive early in the count, you have two anxieties,” he said. “One, you don’t like hitting with two strikes. Two, you really think in your mind that’s going to be the best pitch of the at-bat and guys who take it for a strike it kind of ruins the at-bat for them because it’s like, ‘God, I just took the best pitch of the at-bat,’ and they kind of get flustered the rest of the at-bat.
“Sometimes too early in the year when you are aggressive in the early part of the at-bat, you want to do a little too much and you are just swinging at pitches that aren’t quite balls you can drive out of the ballpark. So far early we have done a little bit of that.”