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Cubs manager Lou Piniella does the math, needs more offense

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lou-piniella-cubs-wrigley-field.jpgThe Cubs' 81st game of the season saw them score just one run on seven hits, an all-too accurate microcosm of a first half that has seen the offense struggle to find its bearings.

It also saw them lose 2-1, wasting a strong outing from a starting pitcher.

It's become a familiar refrain, this out of tune Cub offense.

Coming off a 97-win season, few would have predicted the ballclub would find itself near the bottom of the National League in the imperative hitting statistics. And manager Lou Piniella isn't happy about it.

"We've got to hit," he said. "Fifteenth in the league in runs scored isn't going to get it done. Period."

"We can mask this any way we want to mask it, but we've got to start scoring more runs more consistently to win baseball games."
In addition to ranking next to last in the league in runs scored, the Cubs have hit a dreadful .247 as a team, are 15th in hits and have wasted stellar starting pitching time and time again while compiling a disappointing 41-40 first half record.

"You've got to score more runs more consistently if you want to win," Piniella said. "That's not only the Chicago Cubs, that's the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the St. Louis Cardinals or any other team you want to name."

So, he's identified the problem.

The next step is finding a solution and fixing it.

The return of Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson on Monday provides some optimism, but that pesky injury bug bit the team again this morning when catcher Geovany Soto was scratched from the lineup with an oblique strain.

Today, Piniella's planned lineup had Kosuke Fukudome in the leadoff spot and Milton Bradley in the two-hole. The fact that he's playing Boggle with the top of the order shows that he isn't afraid to make some necessary changes.

That's a start.

Piniella can talk until he's Cubbie blue in the face and play musical chairs with the lineup until the cows come home, but eventually the final burden lies with the players on the field. With proven hitters like Bradley and Soriano struggling, the lack of run production becomes increasingly vexing -- and to some people, confusing.

The Cubs skipper, however, isn't interested in unraveling the inner machinations of the enigmatic offense. He just wants results and the tangible proof in front of his face.

"I don't know what's hard to understand or not hard to understand," he said. "What's easy to understand is the math. You multiply the number of games by the number of runs and it gives you a pretty good picture."

Luckily for the Cubs, no one team seems particularly interested in running away with the division. Depsite their lackluster first-half perfomance, Piniella and Co. find themselves just three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The two arch-rivals will play four games in three days this weekend at Wrigley Field. When the dust settles it will be the All-Star break and the Cubs could conceivably find themselves in first place.

Somehow.

What a reason for optimism. What a reason to turn things around. What a time to put the 81 games behind them.

"It can change," Piniella said of the hitting woes. "There's no question it can change. It's a long season and that's why you play 162 games. But the fact remains, for us to have good success, we're going to have to score more runs in the second half than we did in the first half. That's it."

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1 Comment

Pinnella ought to know better than to play Bradley!
Why compound the naive shortsightedness of the front office by playing such a person. Pitchers have fun easily "out-smarting" him at bat; he lacks know-how to adjust, and he's not embarrassed by continuing as the laughing stock clown of the Cubs.

The farm system has done them well in the past; anyone in Des Moines who can catch a ball in the outfield and bunt will help 100% more than Bradley.
Of course, the Cub's curse started in 1938 when "Veeck" (as in Wreck) Senior duped P.K. Wrigley in puting the bleachers in Wrigley. The outfield and foul ball dimensions are so small, that Cub pitching cannot last a season, cheap 168' homers are as easy for visiting teams as the Derrick Lee to hit. Get rid of the damn bleachers; and get a front office that understands the innate "character" of players.
Hope springs Eternal.

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