Earlier today, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations (first of his name) Theo Epstein joined Spiegel and Parkins on 670 The Score to discuss a number of NLDS and general postseason topics – you can catch the full interview right here.
Below, I’ve captured some of the highlights from that chat and placed them alongside some thoughts of my own. Enjoy:
- Yesterday, the Cubs coaching staff, front office, and scouting department had their big NLDS meeting, but while they did discuss the roster quite a bit, the final decisions weren’t yet made. Instead, the meeting is more about extracting the knowledge from the advance scouts and distributing that information to everyone else, including, most importantly, Joe Maddon.
- Why most importantly? Well, according to Epstein, the two goalposts the front office keeps in mind during their roster construction are 1. a roster that makes Joe Maddon happy and 2. a roster that presents the best matchup opportunities. Although they will always permit Maddon the lineup he wants, Epstein said, he doesn’t always have the comprehensive knowledge on the Nationals that the advanced scouts might. So, basically, everyone sits down together and runs through everything they know about the Nationals, what situations might arise (pinch hitters, pinch runners, extra innings etc.) and then they all make a decision together. Although there is sometimes a bit of disagreement, it’s the good kind (i.e. the Cubs are loaded with talent so final decisions are tough).
- When asked about Justin Wilson’s time with the Cubs, Epstein answered honestly, suggesting it’s been obvious to everyone that he hasn’t been nearly as good in Chicago as he was with Detroit. HOWEVER, he did add that Wilson looked better late in the season (from a scouting, not results perspective), and players have always had a difficult time squaring him up. When pressed if he’d make the roster, Epstein wouldn’t budge, but he did make sure to mention that Nationals bat (and Cubs-beater) Daniel Murphy is 0-6 with three strikeouts against him. My guess based on Epstein’s tone? Wilson makes it.
- As I’m sure you know, the Cubs have announced their full playoff rotation while the Nationals have not. And while Epstein can see how there’s some gamesmanship to that (not necessarily in the Nationals case, who are waiting for Max Scherzer’s health), it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. After all, a team can change the order whenever they want. Or, alternatively, an opposing team can make highly educated guesses based on the pitchers bullpen sessions.
- On the aggressive bullpen usage in October, Epstein says that you’ll see more of it in the AL than you will in the NL. That said, with off-days after two games and no tomorrow, you have to deploy your best pitchers when the opportunity/advantage presents itself.
- But to that end, Epstein had some interesting thoughts on Kyle Hendricks. First, he suggests that the Cubs have purposefully given Hendricks a longer leash this season, after he earned it in 2016 and throughout the playoffs. And now, Epstein believes that Hendricks is even the type of pitcher to get stronger as some games go on. It sure sounded like Epstein expects Maddon to let Hendricks work his way out of jams a bit more often this October than he might’ve last fall.
- Speaking of last fall, winning it all in 2016 has definitely relieved some pressure on the Cubs, who are said to be more excited than anything else. Although the desire to win is as high as ever, the (bad kind of) desperation just isn’t there. Everyone is loose and ready to go.
- And finally, the Cubs don’t yet know what time Games 3 (and 4, if necessary) will start, but Epstein guessed it could be the earlier slot, given the rest of the games that day. There’s just no news on that yet.