Inbox: What's the best lineup order for Cubs?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans

Inbox: What's the best lineup order for Cubs?

Can someone please give manager Joe Maddon this lineup card and ask him to ride it out for two weeks? Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and the pitcher.
-- Justin A., Chatham, Ill.

Here's why Maddon would reject it: You've got lefties Heyward and Rizzo back to back, and then right-handed hitters Russell, Almora, Baez and Contreras. One of the things Maddon tries to do with the lineup is alternate left-right-left-right in an effort to counter the other team's bullpen moves.

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You sent this before Rizzo became the greatest leadoff hitter for two days in Cubs history. That's most likely temporary. Maddon still feels Schwarber is the Cubs' best leadoff man.

If the Cubs continue to hover around .500 and are on the outside of the playoff bubble at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, do you think they'd be willing to deal pending free agents to secure high-upside starters? It's hard to see them subtracting from what should be a World Series contender, but it would've been hard to predict they would be playing .500 back in February, too.
-- Matt S., Chaska, Minn.

The list of pending free agents on the Cubs' roster include John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, Miguel Montero, Wade Davis, Jon Jay, Brett Anderson and Brian Duensing. I'm not sure any of those will get the "high-upside starter" you want.

As for playing .500, here's what you and other Cubs fans need to remember: They're counting on young players. Look at Wednesday's lineup -- Almora and Contreras were called up midseason, and Ian Happ and Schwarber weren't even on the 25-man roster last year.

Happ's solo shot to right-center

"There's been some unpredictability," Maddon said after Wednesday's loss to the Mets. "There's a certain unpredictability about us -- that's why we're a .500 ballclub now. When you're .500, you don't play that same good game every day. ... I'm by no means giving up on anybody.

"We've earned the right to be in this position," he said. "We've played well enough to be a .500 club. We have a nice group and I believe in our group, but we have to prove it on the field."

I'm wondering if some of the starting pitching woes are related to the guy calling the pitches behind the plate. It seems that is one variable that could be looked at compared to last year. Is there a stat with the team record for Montero vs. Contreras this year?
-- James T., Los Angeles

The Cubs' pitchers have done nothing but praise Contreras, especially Jon Lester, who is matched up with him exclusively. Contreras ranks fifth in the National League in catcher's ERA (4.03), and pitchers have a combined 4.59 ERA with Montero behind the plate. Since you asked, the Cubs are 19-23 when Contreras starts at catcher, and 13-9 when Montero starts.

Which pitcher, not necessarily a Cub, has thrown your favorite game?
-- Joshua W., Chesterton, Ind.

I've covered three no-hitters (Carlos Zambrano, and Arrieta twice), but my all-time favorite pitching performance was Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game on May 6, 1998, at Wrigley Field. I still get goosebumps when I see video of that game.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.