The Chicago Cubs are going with a very different look this evening against the St. Louis Cardinals and lefty Jaime Garcia:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 10, 2015
With David Ross catching last night, Miguel Montero was likely to be in this one no matter what. Otherwise, at the spots where Joe Maddon could have gone lefty or righty – the corner outfield spots and second base – he opted to go straight righty.
Normally, you’d say: well, yeah, the Cubs are facing a lefty.
But, as we discussed this morning, Garcia is not a typical lefty. This year, lefties are hitting .248/.304/.327 against him, whereas righties are down at .215/.266/.292. For his career, the story is the same, albeit less pronounced: .269/.322/.376 for lefties, .248/.305/.366 for righties.
So, then, you could look at that and say Maddon is making a clear mistake loading up on righties. But boy is it not that simple. First of all, each of Jorge Soler, Austin Jackson, and Starlin Castro are mostly split-neutral types. No, you can’t quite work backwards like that, but it does suggest that perhaps some of the things that make Garcia effective against typical righties might not be as effective against that particular trio.
Furthermore, as we saw last night, you can’t always play by the reverse splits, because then you’re using guys who’ve only very rarely faced same-handed pitching. Perhaps the lefties who’ve had success against Garcia are the ones who see him frequently (which none of the Cubs have). Perhaps, in turn, if you put a lefty out there who almost never sees lefties, he’d still struggle, despite Garcia’s splits.
In short, reverse splits can be a pain in the butt when you try and strategize like this. So, for the Cubs, they’ll take this stuff to a MUCH more granular level, digging in on the specific players and why they may or may not be a good fit to face this specific pitcher.
Here’s hoping they get some runs early, and then Maddon can play around in the middle and later innings to optimize the more optimizable match-ups.