Joe Maddon May Want to Consider Batting Pitchers Even Higher in Order

Calm down, the title wasn’t meant to be serious. At least not totally. But with June quickly drawing to a close, we’re seeing some pretty alarming offensive trends from the hitters at the bottom of the Cubs’ order. It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that the starting pitchers are routinely carrying the load in the lower third of the lineup.

I made something of a joke about this on Twitter Sunday night in response to questions I’d seen about Joe Maddon his pitchers eighth. We discussed the actual by-the-book reasons behind this strategy a few years ago and there’s legitimate reason for it on some levels. But when you look at just how bad some of the Cubs’ position players have been with the bat lately, you can just throw the book right out the window.

Based on OPS, five Cubs pitchers have outperformed the trio of Addison Russell, Daniel Descalso, and Albert Almora Jr. this month. And before you choose to put fingers to keyboard with a “Well actually…” reply, let me confirm for you that I do indeed understand both the frivolity of this exercise and the disparity in the applicable sample sizes.

Shoot, I just realized I was about 150 words too late to prevent Facebook backlash. Alas.

If you do still feel like sharing your thoughts on the unfair comparison of pitchers to position players here, I suggest you direct them to Tony Andracki of NBC Sports Chicago. He’s the one who ran with my earlier thought and drew some actual conclusions from it.

To take things a bit further, the pitchers mentioned above have combined for roughly a .260 wOBA with a 70 wRC+ so far in June. The anemic trio of hitters, on the other hand, has posted a .206 wOBA with a 22 wRC+ in that same time. I don’t care what kind of justification you want to use, that is on some hot garbage.

And the worst of it is that the position-player values are actually buoyed significantly by Descalso’s .248 wOBA and 49 wRC+, neither of which even approaches acceptable. They’ve combined for four multi-hit games, three of which belong to Almora, while the pitchers have had two such performances in less than a third of the at-bats.

One would hope a correction is in order here, since it’s not exactly great when your pitcher is a more feared hitter than the guys batting around him in the order. If things don’t improve soon, and in a big way, we might finally see the Cubs putting some teeth in that whole “production over talent” thing they have seemingly forgotten about.

Then again, it’s not like they’ve got David Bote posting a .336 wOBA and 106 wRC+ this month while playing capable second base. Oh wait, they do. With that in mind, the Cubs might be better off shortening their bench and going with an extra arm now that they’ve stretched to a six-man rotation.

Or maybe they can transition Victor Caratini to the bullpen. After all, he’s hitting kind of like a pitcher this month and is about as reliable in relief as Brad Brach.

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