Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun go from a free swinger to a disciplined hitter who was the National League MVP last season. But it had as much to do with Braun's self confidence as Sveum's ability as a hitting coach.
That is an added challenge for the young players Sveum is now nurturing with the Cubs.
``Braun swung at more pitches than anyone,'' Sveum said. ``But he went to a major college [Miami] and played a long time. He made the conclusion and was confident enough that he could hit any fastball. Obviously, he's changed some things [in his approach], but he is able to hit an 0-1 pitch with no panic. That comes with a tremendous amount of confidence.''
Sveum said confidence helps a player develop patience at the plate, one of the greatest challenges for hitters.
``Unless you `tell' them to take pitches, it's a very difficult thing to teach, because that ball that comes right down the middle is a strike and they get discouraged.''
The Cubs still rank among the better teams in striking out--ranking sixth in fewest strikeouts in the National League. But they are last in drawing walks, which has contributed to being second to last in runs scored.
For now, Sveum is less concerned about the statistics than watching for development.
``The thing you watch in development in the big leagues is not worrying about production and statistics. You're worried about bat speed and intelligence [at the plate] and willingness to make adjustments when things are out of whack,'' he said.