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This is one of those things that sounds really incendiary, but I don’t actually have much of an opinion. I just find it very interesting.

In the bottom of the 8th yesterday, Matt Garza – perhaps the worst hitting pitcher in baseball – came up with one out and a runner on first. On deck was Starlin Castro, standing at 199 hits, and hoping to reach 200 at Wrigley Field.

That’s when Chicago Cubs’ manager Mike Quade asked Matt Garza to put the bat on his shoulder, and not swing. He wanted Garza to strike out on purpose to avoid the chance that Garza would ground into an inning-ending double play, which would deprive Castro of one last at bat.

“You’ve got to explain things a few times to him,” Quade quipped about Garza.

You don’t have to know much about Matt Garza’s competitive drive to know that he was unhappy about the request.

“It is what it is,” Garza said. “I’m trying to hit too, guys. Shoot, I want 20 wins, I want 200 innings, I want 200-plus strikeouts …. I was in my mode, so, I’m going to go out there and compete. I’m not going to just give up …. I’m pretty sure [Castro]’s going to [get to 200], so that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Eesh. Tense.

So, other than pissing off his ace, was Quade wrong? It would have been nice to see Castro get to 200 at home, and Garza is a truly awful hitter. Indeed, there are some statheads who contend that, in that situation, a strikeout is actually the best move, regardless of the sentimentality attached to the next batter.

But there’s something that feels icky about it, no? A manager telling a player to strike out on purpose? I’m flashing on the Cobra Kai sensei telling that one kid to go for Daniel’s knee, even though he knows it will get the kid disqualified. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but if you don’t take every opportunity to reference ‘Karate Kid,’ you aren’t living.

So, as I said in the preamble, I’m not sure what I think. Anyone have a hard and fast opinion on this?

The ultimate irony? Castro got the at bat anyway, and he kept the bat on his shoulder, walking in five pitches – the last of which was quite hittable. It may have been the most mature and impressive at bat I’ve ever seen Castro take.

  • Fishin Phil

    It would have been a fine time for Garza to practice his bunting.  And he needs the practice badly.

    • Mike

      That’s a good point. Bunting is overrated, but you should at least know how to do it, particularly if you’re as bad of a hitter as Garza is, and the odds of bunting into a double play are astronomically low.

      • CubFan Paul

        ..bunting is overrated??

        • TC

          Yep, in almost every instance, your run expectancy is significantly higher by not giving up an out to advance a runner. However, garza is one of the worst hitters I have ever seen, and because of it, he should be bunting every time because it is the least harmful of his possible outcomes at the plate

          • CubFan Paul

            you contradict yourself with that explanation…

            “worst hitters I have ever seen, and because of it, he should be bunting every time because it is the least harmful..”

            the Cubs play in the National League, there’s no DH, and not everyone is a slugger so no matter how you slice it bunting is important ..hence, small ball

            • TC

              No I don’t. If a player is physically capable of getting the ball out of the infield (see: almost everyone in baseball not named matt garza or roy halladay) better serves the team by not bunting. The run expectancy is much higher (*especially* with one out already) with any somewhat competent batter swinging away rather than bunting. But garza is not semi competent, and his only possible outcomes are strikeout or groundout, and thus should be bunting to reduce the harm he causes by even approaching the plate. If a player can even add a single every .15 or so times he approaches the plate to his possible outcomes, it is more valuable to have him swing away.

              Small ball is overrated.

              • CubFan Paul

                TC your point still doesn’t makes sense to me when talking National League baseball as in, most of all the pitchers in the league can’t hit, so that’s why they bunt ..which is why i dont think small ball/bunting is overrated ..we can disagree on this, because pitchers aren’t going to spend anymore time in the batting cage than they have to ..just sayin

                • T C

                  There’s a difference between “can’t hit” and “can’t take the bat off of their shoulders”. Most pitchers cannot hit, but if they can hit even .150 or so, its worth the risk that they wont advance the runner to let them swing away. It is almost NEVER a better option to give up an out to advance a runner. Like I explained earlier, the exception to this rule is when a batter will be making an out anyway, i.e., Matt Garza, you might as well have him bunt.

                  As far as small ball outside of pitchers bunting, its way out of date and completely overrated.

                  And I feel the need to apologize like JulioZuleta, cause one of my earlier posts kind of comes off angry. i assure you, that was not the intention, but rather my feelings about being at an 8am probability and stats class bleeding through

                  • CubFan Paul

                    thank you TC, and will agree to disagree because i dont want my pitchers running the bases or spending any extra time in the cage ..just routine bunt exercises with the infield coaches

            • JulioZuleta

              Paul, I know that you always say you don’t use the “nerd websites” with all the statisctical analysis and the other things intelligent people use, but yes, in most cases, bunting is very overrated. There is a time and place for it, and if you ever took the time to consider everything a post says before being just going to your stock response of refute and negativity, you would notice that he says “that is a good point” to the suggestion that he should have bunted, and then went on to say that although he believe that was a good idea at the time, bunting in general is overrated, which is a statistical fact.

              • CubFan Paul

                Julio, i’ve never said:

                don’t use the “nerd websites” with all the statisctical analysis and the other things

                I said “i dont know the geek websites that show defensive stats/awesomeness but im willing to bet Byrd grades above average defensively…” ONCE, when talking in defense of Byrd’s defense.

                So, i apologize if I offended you, but you obviously mismead me, so I’d appreciate it if you would lose the dickheaded attitude towards me because E-Bullys aren’t cool

                • JulioZuleta

                  Agreed, they’re not cool, which is why I call you out on being one from time to time. So I suppose if pointing out an e-bully makes me one, I’m guilty.

                  And you didn’t offend me, I don’t get too deep into the stats, I definitely balance an old-school eye test with the stats but I do know bunting is not usually the right call. Anyways, I also apologize, I just have noticed quite a bit of often unneccesary arguing, and I don’t want this fine webiste to turn into the typical bickering fan message board.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    i’ve been an e-bully to who? ..Lou doesn’t count

        • Mike

          Yes.

    • ReiCow

      I agree.. a bunt was the first thing that came to mind.. and bunting into a DP is damned hard to do.

  • random_monkey

    Why would Quade go for just taking strikes, and not attempt to bunt?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Probably afraid of bunting into a double play. Seems silly to me.

      That said, your name is the best.

  • Mike

    I don’t know about the exact math on trying to avoid the double play (seems iffy to me), but Garza has an .097 BA this year with ONE walk and ZERO extra base hits. The upside to a Garza at bat is practically zero anyway. With all of the questionable decisions Quade has made this year, this one barely registers for me.

  • CubFan Paul

    my opinion – look at Garza’s quote! No respect for the manager at all ..Garza could have been a little nicer about it when asked but why do a ‘solid’ for your lame duck manager

    Garza will be here for 5-8 more years (hopefully) ..Brett do you know of any contracts that would compare to Garza’s hypothetical extension that he could get this year? im drawing a blank on arbitration guys of recent past

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Can’t think of one. He’s got two more years of arbitration (getting something like $8.5M and then $11M), so there’s no rush from the Cubs’ perspective.

      • CubFan Paul

        no rush but wouldn’t you agree that locking him up in a 4year deal with two more team options would be better financially over the long haul (4-6yrs) kinda like Marmol’s 3yr $20million deal that came with a $1mil signing bonus?

        with a healthy signing bonus he & his agent may be more inclined to take a little less money the next 2-3yrs

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          There are no signing bonuses in MLB, and as the Marmol contract shows it’s better to pay the arbitration raises than extend prematurely. After next year is the time to talk extension but the Cubs can afford arbitration.

          • CubFan Paul

            there absolutely are Signing bonuses in baseball – to take the annual average dollar down..

            Samardzija $2mil
            Marmol $1mil
            Pena $2mil
            Soriano $8mil
            Dempster $4mil
            Ramirez $5mil
            Big Z $5mil ..& this is just the cubs

            • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

              I’m assuming your getting that information from Cot’s, but I believe those bonuses are more along the means of “perks” (such as Soriano’s luxury boxes etc.). If there were true cash bonus money I’m sure the $$$ would be much larger (8M compared to Soriano’s 136M is not exactly the number that influenced him). I look into this in more detail but can anyone else confirm or refute the signing bonus.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                I believe they are legit signing bonuses (as in, here’s your money). They are more rare in baseball because all of the money is guaranteed, but it does happen – and I do believe the primary reason is for budgetary/financial purposes (for example, Carlos Pena received his bonus so that the Cubs could put some of his 2011 salary on the 2010 books – don’t ask me why).

              • CubFan Paul

                they’re not perks, they are actual signing bonuses ..when you add up each of those player’s yearly salaries you’ll see its missing the signing bonuses that were paid to them

              • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                Yes Paul you are correct

  • Jeff

    Pay it forward Garza. All players are asked to do things (from time to time) for their team mates. Hence…. Take one for the team! Garza, your teammate Castro will be asked to give himself up for you in the future, so suck it up and laugh it off. This is a non issue.

    • JulioZuleta

      I get that idea, and like Brett said, I don’t have a huge opinion on this, but I am tired of the sentimentality of this organization. Castro has 6 games left, he is going to get his hit, let Garza lay a bunt down and not roll over as the Cubs have all year. Show a little fight/confidence.

      • Ron

        Exactly if he gets the hunt down and Milwaukee walks him you create a motivational point for years, instead an individual was elevated above team.

        • Toosh

          You don’t bunt in that spot either. The lead was big enough. You don’t rub it in.

          • JulioZuleta

            I normally would agree, but I think when a team that is about 20 games out bunts with a big lead against the first place team with a week left, no body gets too offended.

  • Ian Afterbirth

    Wrong Wrong Wrong.

    This was absolutely incendiary to me.
    To ask that of Garza?
    To manipulate the game just so Castro (a player for whom he has before shown little respect) can get his 200 at home???
    When Garza could have bunted?????
    What about all Q’s crap about taking the rest of the season seriously (catching the Pirates, starting lame-duck vets over possible young future contributors, etc)????

    And then he pulls this STUNT?
    Yeah, I’m sure Castro felt really great about it.

    I swear this is the first time in a long time I’ve been pissed enough to not just write a smart-assed comment.

  • Ron

    It is one thing to give yourself up for the good of the team, a sac hunt, if you as an individual want to help a teammate that is another thing. Managing for an individual over the team is always wrong and this is another, although not as egregious as others, of a manager that cares more for individuals (himself included) than the team. No chemistry.

  • SirCub

    In principle it sounds ok, but the way this went down does give me a queezy feeling…

  • Chris

    maybe Q should have visited the mound, told the pitcher he was going to have Garza stand there and strike out, and then pretty please groove one to Castro so he could get the hit. And also ask the defense not to make a play. You’ve got to be kidding me. Every player needs to compete, every time. I guess now it’s ok to not run out ground balls or pop ups.

  • Mark

    First of all I have no problem with Quade’s decision of telling Garza not to swing. With a 6 run lead in the 8th you don’t need your best starting pitcher trying to beat out a grounder or running the bases if he were to somehow get a hit.
    For all of those who thought Garza should have laid down a bunt instead of keeping the bat on his shoulders:
    If Garza would have laid down a successful bunt it would have left 1st base open and Milwaukee would be inclined to intentionally walk Castro to face a rookie in LeMehieu much like they did earlier in the game. This would have completely defeated the purpose of letting Castro try for his 200th hit in front of the home crowd in the last home game of the season.
    Quade has made some questionable decisions this season, but this was not one of them.

    • Ron

      Then we can hate Milwaukee and call them cowards instead he now needlessly created an intra team conflict.

  • Cubbie Blue

    ^ FINALLY someone who can think straight! Now how do all you Nay-sayers feel?

  • die hard

    Quade may have voided contract and league rule to not bring disrepute to or do anything detrimental to game…void contract means bye bye

  • LARRY

    This is just another example of Quade being wrong on so many levels.  It’s like letting the DE come in unblocked so he can gently touch the QB and get the sack record.  It’s like if Ted Williams wouldn’t have played the last day of the season so he could ensure a BA over .400.  It’s like …..          OK, so these examples aren’t exactly the same as what Quade did, but they are all wrong on some level.  It’s also another example of Quade’s “wrong-thinking.”  You would think a baseball lifer would have a better feel and understanding of the game.

  • Toosh

    To help win a game it’s OK, to help someone’s stats it’s not.

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    The real story is the fact that we actually know about this. On a team that respects and supports their manager this would never had made it to the media, but since Q has neither the support of veterans or the “kids” this became a story.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yup.

    • Jeff

      I agree Goat.  Quade is a fool, and the more he talks about his baseball “strategies” he proves it to everyone.  He has made it abundantly clear that milestones are what he is managing for this year.  He couldn’t give a crap about improving the team in the future(not that this has anything to do with Garza).  I’m glad Garza stood up to him and I’m glad Quade brought this out to the media.  I would worry about him saying he planned on being back next year if the words didn’t come from his mouth.

      • Internet Random

        He couldn’t give a crap about improving the team in the future . . . .

        Agreed… and why I now hate Quade.

      • JulioZuleta

        Yeah, there has just been way too many times this year where he is defending/explaining his thought process. A good, confident manager will just say “I thought this/ Liked this matchup, and it just didn’t work out” when questioned about a failed move. He goes wayyyy too deep into things, why is he so focused on getting a guy a base hit when there are six games left.

  • Cubbies4Life

    LOVE reading your comments! So much knowledge – so much passion for the game. Thanks, folks! I learn more every day about the game – and the team – that I love. Keep it up…

  • Internet Random

    This is, to me, a matter of motive.

    I’m on the side of “icky” when the stated purpose is to help Castro get to 200. I like Castro and all, but something about “helping” these guys get their benchmarks seems artificial… in a way that’s worse than fake breasts.

    On the other hand, if the stated purpose were to avoid a double play and thereby increase the the team’s chance of winning, I’d support that.

    Sweep the leg.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Well put. Particularly the ending.

  • oso

    Bad leadership. Poor logic. Quade has no clue, his boot licking just pisses people off. I doubt if even Castro appreciated it.

  • Ron

    From the Scrat box, (Muskrat mailbox) “why does Lahair not get starts at first…” so Pens can get 30 homeruns! Individual over team.

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