After six games in the postseason, it is clear that the Chicago Cubs offense need a change. The question is how.
Have you watched any of the postseason games for the Chicago Cubs? If you have, you know that the offense has struggled. That is probably an understatement. Through six games, the offense is batting .193 collectively. Add to that an on-base percentage of .251 and you get the definition of poor offense.
Dig a little deeper. Pitchers have knocked in six of the 24 total runs for the Cubs. They also have two of the seven home runs, and three pitchers are in the top six in team batting average. Okay, so pitchers get far fewer at-bats than other players; however, those stats are telling.
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Anthony Rizzo has one hit. So does Addison Russell. Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward both have two hits. Together, they account for eight runs and two runs batted in; however, these are not the numbers you want from the middle of the line-up.
What is Manager Joe Maddon to do? In his Monday afternoon press conference, he was asked that question. His response, “I have thought about.” Many of us have considered the options as well and stated them on Twitter or on Cubbies Crib. Here are two ways I think bring great possibilities.
Change the order
Can you name the batting order used during the playoff games so far? Answer: Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist, Russell, Heyward, Javier Baez, catcher, pitcher. That is the most common version. The only difference each game has been rotation David Ross and Willson Contreras at catcher, and the starting pitcher. Heyward hit eighth in the Game 2 loss to the Dodgers. Is there a better way to get the offense going?
For me, I believe there is a better line-up. Bryant is performing well at the plate so far and leads the team with four runs batted in (along with Montero’s grand slam). Taking advantage of this production is crucial. Maddon could move Zobrist into the second slot of the order. His ability to move Fowler over or get on base can lead to more runs.
Moving Zobrist to second in the order also moves Rizzo to fourth, the place of a clean-up batter. Placing Baez in the fifth spot creates a demanding middle of the order. Two switch hitters followed by a right-left-right combination. With both Bryant and Baez hitting well over .300, managers and pitcher will have to choose who they pitch to or around. Rizzo should see more pitches to hit.
Sit Addison Russell
It pains me to say this. Truly. But Addison Russell’s struggles started before the season ended. I believe in this kid, and I know many of you do as well. However, the Chicago Cubs need offense. Removing Addison for a game or two means Baez plays shortstop and Zobrist at second. The question them becomes who plays left field. Maddon has several options, including Contreras who already has five hits this postseason. Jorge Soler is hitless, strikes out a third of the time, and defense is a liability. Albert Almora, Jr., may be the solution. His defense is solid and his knack for hitting line-drives may lead to more runners on base.
Here is the concern with this change. Russell’s defensive prowess up the middle saves runs. Between him and Baez, little gets through to the outfield. Can the offense produce enough to overshadow the defensive change?
All I know is that a change is needed. Whether it is either of these options or something else from the creative genius in Maddon, the Chicago Cubs need offensive help. If nothing changes, we will have to wait until next year to talk World Series.