Cubs

Cubs think Sorianos bat can still play

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Cubs think Sorianos bat can still play

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs fans who are tired of watching Alfonso Soriano would love to see Dale Sveum bench their 136 million man for not sprinting out of the box.

You should have seen the ball that slammed off the left-field scoreboard at HoHoKam Stadium. Yes, Soriano is feeling very good at home plate.

Soriano smashed two home runs during Tuesdays 11-4 win over the Colorado Rockies, a reminder that he can still be a force, even at the age of 36. Soriano who was batting cleanup as the designated hitter doubled and homered while leading off an inning.

I just prepare my mind to be 100 percent, Soriano said. It doesnt matter leadoff, fourth, fifth, sixth. I just want to be in the lineup and be healthy and help the team win.

My goal (is to) show the fans, my teammates and the coaches that Im here to play the game.

A new Cubs front office with a deep background in statistical analysis knows the lineup debates are just noise. Bill James, the sabermetrics pioneer and Red Sox advisor, was asked years ago about the importance of batting order during a chat with ESPN.com.

There is no real evidence that it matters, James wrote. What matters is having good hitters. Who hits second and who hits sixththere is little evidence that it makes any difference.

Soriano generated 26 homers and 88 RBIs last season and still got booed at the Cubs Convention. He started hitting in January and focused on an agility program at the teams academy in the Dominican Republic. He said it usually takes about 25 at-bats in spring training before he starts feeling comfortable.

His manager is going to do everything he can to make Soriano feel that way. Batting leadoff or cleanup could boost Sorianos confidence. And Sveum knows that he needs Soriano to produce in a lineup that is mostly unproven.

We know 162 games is out of the question, but its vital to keep those legs as fresh as possible to where he can do things like he did today, Sveum said. (Well) give him those day games after night games (off), when we fly back home and then have a day game, things like that. (Its) vital (when) your legs arent what they used to be. But that bat still plays, so its important to give him those breathers.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."