CHICAGO -- The Cubs have struggled all season at the plate, ranking last in the National League in runs (457) and on-base percentage (.298) entering Friday's game against Colorado.
As the roster has gotten younger through attrition and trades, the problem has become magnified with free-swinging youngsters like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters now getting regular playing time in their initial stints as big leaguers. During August, the Cubs have averaged just 3.5 runs per game while hitting .221 as a team with a .292 on-base percentage. It's enough to try a first-year manager's patience.
"[My patience is] intact," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "But I'm not going to lie to you, it gets a little wearing, with some of the non-contested at-bats sometimes. Like I've been talking about the last few days in Milwaukee, the ability to grind when you're in the batter's box.
"To not just give up an at-bat, because, maybe, the guy made a good pitch and a guys is in scoring position. These are times when you have to grind at-bats to get another pitch. Sometimes that's got nothing to do with being young."
The Cubs have scored two runs or fewer in 10 of their past 21 games, of which they've won just four. Despite the struggles, one player who has remained consistent is outfielder David DeJesus, who has a .370 on-base percentage in August while hitting four of his six homers.
According to Stats, LLC., DeJesus ranks seventh in the NL with an average of 4.08 pitches seen per plate appearance, something that Sveum said is a good example for his younger hitters.
"Sometimes that takes 10 years in the big leagues to accumulate, just the understanding of battling all the time," Sveum said. "Don't just give in because the guy made a good pitch with two strikes. Try to foul it off.
"But it's important to have a guy like that. He's had a great year for us. He's done a great job in that leadoff spot, as well as defense."
Samardzija showing no signs of wearing down
CHICAGO -- One of the bright spots in the Cubs' rough season has been the successful conversion of righty Jeff Samardzija from a hard-throwing reliever into a full-service starting pitcher. Samardzija -- who went seven solid innings in Friday's 5-3 win over the Rockies -- leads the Cubs in innings and strikeouts, ranking 12th in the National League in the latter category.
Samardzija's 151 2/3 innings mark a career high during his seven seasons as a professional. He threw 141 2/3 innings in 2007, his first full season in the Minors. His total of 88 innings last season was easily the most in his time in the Majors.
With the Cubs out of contention, there have been whispers that the club might shut Samardzija down at some point. It could happen, but manager Dale Sveum says the former college football star appears to be strong enough to finish out the season.
"He's fine," Sveum said before Friday's game. "We'll make those decisions, but right now -- like I said a week ago -- all of his tests came back with flying colors. Right now, we're on the thought of making it all the way through."
The test Sveum referred to is part of a system of routine exams the Cubs require all of their pitchers to undergo periodically.
"It's a big shoulder test more than anything," Sveum said. "You do it in Spring Training and you follow up to see the strength level. Has it gotten weaker? Has it gotten stronger? [Samardzija's] actually even got stronger since Spring Training."
Samardzija has remained solid, posting a 2.83 ERA in his past nine starts previous to Friday. According to Sveum, it's a product of Samardzija's solid training regimen.
"His work ethic," Sveum said. "You just don't throw that many pitches and innings and get stronger unless you've been doing a lot of work on the side to prevent any injuries and to keep that part of your arm as strong as possible."
Sveum not altering approach with Rox in town
CHICAGO -- While the construction of pitching staffs has evolved a great deal over the past 25 years, one constant is teams tend to institute change in unison. Clubs have stricter pitch counts for starters than ever and bullpen roles are more specialized, but from team to team, it's mostly been a case of follow the leader.
When the Cubs prepared to face the Rockies on Friday for the first time this season, it was their initial glimpse at Colorado's out-of-the-box experiment with its starting rotation. For the past 2 1/2 months, the Rockies have gone with a four-man rotation while limiting pitch counts to 75 or so per outing.
Colorado hasn't had a starting pitcher throw 100 pitches since Jeremy Guthrie threw 102 on June 12. During that same time frame, the Cubs have had starters reach triple digits 18 times.
Since Rockies starters are likely to traverse an opposing lineup just a couple of times per game, you might think that would introduce some added complexity to the task of filling out a batting order. For example, you might not overload a lineup with lefty hitters against a righty starter if you know that you're going to have to face a litany of relievers later in the game.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said it's no big deal.
"Obviously, it's there, but you don't change your lineup around," Sveum said. "Like I said before, the bottom line is to do some damage against the starting pitching and then you move on from there.
"You can't predict what's going to happen in the fifth, sixth, seventh inning, so it doesn't affect how you're going make your lineup out. It's going to come down to the bullpen anyway, no matter what."
While the experiment in Colorado has generated a lot of discussion around baseball, Sveum said it's of no particular interest to him.
"They have a reason why they're doing it with young pitchers, and that kind of thing to keep pitch counts down, keep innings down," Sveum said. "We don't [plan to] introduce any philosophy like that, so it's something I don't even dwell on."
Not surprisingly, Colorado's 486 relief innings entering Friday's game were nearly 100 more than second-place Washington in the National League. The Cubs ranked ninth with 354 2/3 innings from their bullpen.
Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.