Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
While there was a brief glimmer of hope that the Chicago Cubs might demonstrate at least marginal improvement after a couple of putrid seasons early on, that optimism has faded with an abysmal start for the club that has them looking like they’re on their way to another 100-loss campaign. In the middle of all of that resides that smiling, optimistic manager Rick Renteria, who has already come under fire from the fanbase for his questionable decision making.
Those decisions relate primarily to his propensity for bunting at every opportunity. A Cubs team that has enough trouble getting guys on base to begin with can’t afford to be throwing outs away each time a guy gets on first or second base. It’s cost the Cubs at least a couple of wins. In addition to the bunting problem, there’s a matter of Renteria’s obsession with the matchups, which has resulted in very little playing time for prospect Mike Olt.
To a point, matching hitters up against a left-handed or right-handed pitcher makes sense. Get Luis Valbuena in there against righties when you can, maybe sit Olt once in a while against a righty. Yet, Valbuena has 40 plate appearances on the season, while Olt has just 31 to his credit. Olt has appeared in 13 games, but he has only started seven of them. The others were pinch hitting appearances, which means no consistent at-bats for one of the organization’s top prospects.
Regardless of the pitching matchups on a given day, the Cubs need to be getting Mike Olt in the lineup as much as possible. It’s imperative for his development at the Major League level to be in there as much as possible, or not at all. If Renteria wants to get Valbuena’s lefty bat in the lineup, get him in at second base as a substitute for the stagnant Darwin Barney, who contributes virtually nothing at the plate.
The Cubs sport one of the league’s worst groups offensively. Mike Olt may strike out a lot, but with increased opportunities he’s a good power bat in the middle of that lineup and a guy who can get on base. Unless he’s not completely healthy in terms of his arm strength, there’s absolutely no reason for the Cubs to not be playing the kid on a daily basis.