The Cubs’ brass been enamored with and has played righty-lefty matchups for a few years now, and, frankly, they've consistently stunk, and stunk bad. If they are serious about this rebuild and seeing what they have for the future, why the heck aren't they playing the likes of Junior Lake and Mike Olt every day to see if they can handle the competition and will be valuable future pieces? -- Dave, Bucktown
First, let’s go on a case-by-case basis with the players affected. At third, Luis Valbuena hadn’t played more than 103 games at the major league level until last season with the Cubs, when he played in 108 games. Ryan Sweeney played in a career high 134 games with the Athletics in 2009 and hit .293, but he has spend time in virtually every subsequent season but 2011 but batted only .159 against lefties. Nate Schierholtz had a breakout year in 2013 in terms of production, but his time was limited to playing mostly against right-handers. Justin Ruggiano wasn’t a full-time player until last season with Miami, where he fared better in day games and against left-handers. Ryan Kalish hasn’t played a full professional season since 2010 because of injuries. As for Darwin Barney, he picked a bad time to come off a .208 season with the arrival of switch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio and the evitable arrival of Javier Baez.
Simply, many of these players haven’t had a large sample size of playing full-time at the major league level. At some point, I think Junior Lake and Mike Olt will get an extended look at left field and third base, respectively. It could occur sooner as we get deeper into the season and players get a chance to prove themselves to the extent that there is a larger sample size to make assessments.
The Earl Weaver-managed Orioles teams of the 1970s and early 1980s had plenty of platoon systems (with Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein getting plenty of production in left field in 1979, and Dan Graham hit 15 home runs while sharing the catching duties with Rick Dempsey in 1980).
But the biggest difference between the lineups of the Orioles in those days and the Cubs were the full-time position players. The Orioles had seasoned veterans like Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Al Bumbry and Doug DeCinces. Cubs full-time players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are only 24, and Welington Castillo is in his first season as a full-time catcher.
As a side note, Andrew Koo of Baseball Prospectus did a remarkable job of revealing the Oakland Athletics’ unique platoon of favoring fly ball hitters against ground ball pitchers.
While hope always is there for Cubs fans - and most games are won with pitching and defense - some hitting is still needed. Power hitting being part of that. Although the season just started, concern must be on every Cubs fans face. I understand platooning - but it cannot be performed at five different positions. Stability in a line-up is also essential - so it must be said that time lines must be accelerate. For the youth in the minors, with at least two of the four hitters being summoned before we get through the April showers - with my suggestion being Javier Baez and Albert Almora - while letting Mike Olt play virtually every day at third before moving him to left field and bringing up Kris Bryant in the June time frame.
There is no reason to wait any longer. And this buys additional time for the pitching staff - to gain the fifth starter back - before needing C.J. Edwards to be called up by All-Star break. Can all Cubs fans please vote on this? -- Jon Fech, Fairfield, Conn
Your vote has just been cast.
Is Edwin Jackson the highest paid Cub? -- Jaime Sommers Goldman, Universal City Texas
Yes, Edwin will receive $11 million this season. And Jeff Samardzija will earn much more in subsequent seasons after 2015. The $11 million Jackson will receive is $3 million less than what the Cubs will play Alfonso Soriano – currently with the Yankees.
Here are three new Cubs and two leftovers: Emilio Bonifacio, career .266 hitter over eight years, Ryan Kalish .236, Justin Ruggiano .249, Nate Schierholtz, career .266 hitter over eight years (starting to see a pattern?) and the high mark, Ryan Sweeney with a .277 career average but nothing over.265 since 2011.
Who is running the asylum? Is it really possible the Cubs couldn't find a few guys that could hit better? Add in players like John Baker and Darwin Barney and you can see why this squad is doomed.
So here is my question: Doesn't it make sense to never start both Barney and Baker in the same game? It stands to reason that, since both are weak hitters, Barney should only start when the better-hitting Castillo is behind the plate and Baker should only catch when Bonifacio starts at second.
Finally, it is great to watch the other team's television coverage. They crucify the Cubs’ game management and players' mental gaffes. The Cards announcers were dead-on and much more candid. -- Steve Monroe, Chicago
Outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury were available, but the lengths of those contracts could have caused a logjam somewhere with Albert Almora expected to arrive no later than 2016, the possibility of Kris Bryant moving to the outfield and Jorge Soler still in the mix.
The third base free agent market was pretty thin, and it was only 18 months ago that Mike Olt was perceived as an untouchable in the Rangers’ organization, so I was all for giving him a shot at third if he was healthy.
If Welington Castillo needs a break or he has trouble against a right-handed starter, I would not have any issues starting Baker behind the plate and Barney at second. Barney is doing a better job of taking his walks, and his defense remains Gold Glove caliber.