After watching the Cubs offense flounder again in Wednesdays 4-1 loss to the White Sox, it has never been more clear that this lineup is long overdue for a makeover.
There is no doubt that the Cubs roster is full of offensive talent, yet harnessing the potential of this 2009 team has become such a grind that people have started losing their jobs over it. So what needs to be done?
Change No. 1: A legitimate leadoff hitter
Alfonso Soriano has cheated the Cubs out of a leadoff hitter for long enough. Last year when the Cubs were driving in runs left and right, this glaring weakness was glossed over. But with the Cubs anemic offense so far this season, his lack of plate discipline has stuck out like a sore thumb.
Soriano's stubbornness and the Cubs unwillingness to deal with a temper tantrum like he threw in Washington has led to an upside down and broken lineup. The "out in four pitches or less approach" doesn't work and it is killing any chance the Cubs have at making any first inning impact.
The only viable options to fill the leadoff role are: Fukudome, Theriot, or Reed Johnson. Fukudome may be streaky with the bat, but he seems to be the only one on the team that remembers that four balls equal a walk.
A platoon situation with Fukudome and Johnson would be the Cubs best option, since it gives Johnson more playing time in a role that he grew comfortable with last year. Theriot would be the ideal choice for leadoff, but his bad base running and the fact that he has become so pull happy this year would make me think twice.
Change No. 2: Give the kids a chance!
Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox need as many ABs as they can get. If that means giving Soriano, Lee, or Bradley an extra day off, then so be it. Hoffpauir has been a pretty consistent force since coming to the big leagues last year, and if he is the heir apparent to Lee at first base, it might be time to see what he can do at the plate and in the field.
The big knock on Jake Fox so far has been his defense, but that can't be the reason he doesn't get some playing time. I highly doubt that Fox will forget how many outs there are or crow-hop before every fly ball he catches. Plus it's not like the Cubs are getting any production from the corner outfield spots anyway.
Change No. 3: Preach Patience
One of the things that made the Cubs so good offensively last year was the ability to draw the walk. There was a confidence up and down the order that the guy behind you would get the job done.
Now it feels like every single player on the team wants to be the one man slump buster. For the Cubs to succeed, they need to try to recapture the patience and the roles they had on last year's team. Even though there are some new faces in the clubhouse, that winning formula from last year still works.
Whatever the Cubs end up changing with the batting order it needs to happen soon. The NL Central isn't going to wait around until the Cubs decide to swing the bat.
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