by Bruce Levine-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs manager Rick Renteria knew run production would be an issue in 2014. Plenty of good starting pitching has been wasted in the team’s 4-10 start to the season.
The team is still having the problems getting hits with runners in scoring position. After 14 games, the sample size has been ugly on offense. The Cubs rank near the bottom of the league in every important offensive department. The outfield has just 14 RBI in 165 at bats this season.
Knowing run production could be bad and dealing with the issue are two different subjects for Renteria and his staff. A new hitting coach and support system was hired after previous manager Dale Sveum and his hitting people were fired last October. The results early are basically the same as last year.
The good news is Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have gotten off to good starts. The other players are still trying to get a good feel about their offensive plan.
“They have some decent number 4 and 5 outfielders,” said a National League scout who saw the Cubs play 15 times in Arizona. “They have some good backup guys who can help teams as part-timers. If you play these guys too much they will be over exposed. I like their starting pitching. The rest is a work in progress. They need a lot of help.”
Renteria has been platooning his outfielders, trying to come up with a better mix than the bad numbers that have supplied only 47 runs all season, or roughly 3 runs a game. That number, combined with the team’s combined .632 OPS to start the year, have Renteria making lineup changes in his sleep.
“We are still trying to do the best we can trying to match up guys and getting them use to the big league market,” Renteria said Friday. “To me, it is too early to make a determination as to weather a player is ready to be changed out for another. I will be the last one to panic. I believe in all of these guys and I think offense comes and goes. What I am really happy with is our pitching has been doing a great job, especially our starting pitching. When it starts to warm up, hopefully we can start to chip away and get on track with everyone else.”
Outfield depth appears to be coming in the minor leagues, but Albert Almora and Jorge Soler appear to be a couple years from possibly making an impact in majors. Until that time, it would seem management will not go after long-term free agent outfield help.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.