Levine: Cubs’ Unproductive At-Bats A Sore Spot

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs’ at-bats Friday ticked off manager Joe Maddon.

In the positive world of Maddon, being instructively tough on players is something that’s done in a direct way, one on one. Maddon protects his players publicly, but after watching him operate for the past three seasons in Chicago, one could see he’s upset with the overall hitting approach from his lineup as of late.

“Offensively, we saw 180 some pitches,” Maddon said after the 5-3 loss to the Rockies. “Better, we scored three runs. That is nearly impossible. That speaks to the fact we have to better job with men on base.”

The Cubs walked nine times Friday in seeing 183 pitches but also struck out 12 times and collected just three hits. The Cubs are hitting .216 with runners in scoring position, the worst mark in the National League. And Maddon has seen enough of the current approach.

“You must accept your walks,” Maddon said about his hitters being patient. “The frustrating part — you’re fouling off your pitch or missing it. I always had a saying as a hitting coach. There are three strikes in a at-bat. One for the pitcher, one for the umpire and one for you. To really see more than one good pitch in an at-Bat is doing a lot. It would be surprising, even a real good hitter getting more than one good pitch in the sequence.”

The two-strike approach — choking up on the bat with two strikes — is a dying trend in baseball. With the offensive struggles being team-wide, Maddon can’t afford to sit numerous players for having thoughtless at-bats. He can do his best to get his message across through his coaches.

Maddon said he has total faith in hitting coach John Mallee.

“We do have conversations,” Maddon said about his communication with Mallee. “Having done it myself, I know how hard it can be. As a hitting coach, you literally live and die with each pitch for your guys in the batter’s box. He supplies so much information for each player and the opponent we are playing. It is not easy. You do take it personally, you really do.

“All I can do is support him individually and if I have ideas about different hitters, I will give them to him. Sometimes I think there may be too much information for some at times. If I do see that, I will ask him to back off. John is outstanding in what he does. It is a tough moment. I get it. These are young hitters, really young hitters. Having done it myself, I know how hard it can be.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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