Dale Sveum wants more pop from his three-hole hitter.
He wasn’t getting it from Starlin Castro (2 HR in 179 at-bats), which is why Sveum moved Castro to second in the order in favor of Joe Mather.
Mather’s numbers thus far are underwhelming. He’s hit third during the last six games going 5-for-23 (.217), 1 R, 1 BB, 0 HR & 0 RBI.
On the bright side, two of his five hits went for extra bases, he’s struck out just twice and is seeing right at four pitches per plate appearances–advantageous for Castro to steal bases.
Mather still doesn’t compare well against Castro batting third: .313, 11 XBH & 25 RBI, but there’s no arguing Starlin’s individual success gradually stopped trickling through the rest of the lineup–the Cubs simply quit scoring behind him.
Sveum intends to juice-up the lineup, and Mather’s overall numbers suggest he’s the most capable option available (while serving as the latest example of the Cubs lack of talent).
Joe ranks third on the team in both SLG & OPS percentage (a measure of power), trailing only Steve Clevenger & Bryan LaHair. He’s batting .385 in Late/Close situations and right at .300 with runners on base and two outs.
That’s exactly the production Sveum is hoping for, but Mather has yet to deliver in the three-spot.
Granted Mather is regularly playing different positions game-to-game, which can’t be easy, but now might be his only chance to earn an everyday role until the callup of Anthony Rizzo.
If not Mather batting third, who?
I don’t fault Sveum for trying Mather’s hand as the No.3 guy in the lineup.
The skipper has but few options, Mather’s numbers justify the move and you can never truly tell if any player’s cut out for a role without giving him the opportunity to show otherwise.
Castro and Soriano, who’s on a tear offensively, provide the best protection in the order. But you can’t blame Joe entirely if the three-hole experiment doesn’t work out in his favor.
By all accounts Mather’s skill set is not your ideal three-hole hitter, he’s playing multiply positions and his window of opportunity is fairly short.
If Mather doesn’t cut it Sveum can always move Soriano up one spot, and I also like the idea of giving Steve Clevenger a chance to bat third.
The rookie catcher is 13-for-26 (.500) with six doubles in 11 games.
Whether it’s Mather, Clevenger or someone else batting third, at (18-32) what does Sveum have to lose?