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Making Your Rotation More Efficient By … Adding AAA Reliever Talent? And Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

No school for the kiddos or The Wife today, so it’s a full house … which means I left to go work at Panera. Sorry all. I love you, I just don’t necessarily want to hear or see you while I’m working …


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  • Earlier this offseason, the Mets’ new coaching staff, in conjunction with their front office, espoused what sounds like it will be a pretty strict new philosophy for 2018: pulling pitchers (at least the guys not named Syndergaard or deGrom) after they get two times through the order, no matter how well they’re pitching. It’s not like this is a new revelation, since the “third time through the order penalty” has been discussed for the better part of a decade. It’s thanks to, among other things, the combined forces of a tiring pitcher, a lineup that has seen him use all of his pitches, and the simple fact that batters eventually get to pitchers (you don’t always see it the third time through … because sometimes a pitcher was bounced before that). There’s also a cumulative effect over the season in the opposite direction if you can get guys more rest early on in the year by keeping their outings short and efficient. It’s not new, but maybe the Mets’ strictness with it will be. We’ll see.
  • Will the Cubs do anything similar in 2018, given the struggles their starting pitchers faced in 2017, and the volume of their usage the last few years? It’s a general philosophy Joe Maddon has espoused, but Sahadev Sharma wanted to find out just how specific it’ll be next year, and you can check out his work here at The Athletic. The upshot is that you can probably expect next year to look very similar to the last two: the Cubs will be sensitive to protecting their starting pitchers and trying to win that night’s game … but you simply cannot manage an April game like it’s October. If you’re always yanking your starting pitcher after five innings and two times through the order, your bullpen is going to be exposed very soon (no one’s bullpen is perfect eight pitchers through), and the best guys in the pen are going to have shredded arms by August.
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
  • The reality is, if you want to optimize starting pitcher performance by pulling them earlier than you might otherwise, you need to have an extremely deep reservoir of relief talent not only in your bullpen, but optionable at AAA and AA. If you can shuffle very good relievers up and down throughout the seasons – and also take advantage of the 10-day disabled list – then you can be a whole lot more aggressive with your starting pitcher pulls. For the Cubs last year, they didn’t have the reliever talent to pull it off (and you probably remember that they definitely tried – how often was that reliever carousel churning at the back of the bullpen with guys like Justin Grimm and Felix Pena and Dylan Floro and Rob Zastryzny and Pierce Johnson and so on). You can expect, then, that they’ll be targeting not only quality up-all-year type relievers this offseason, but also some guys they can park at AAA who have options left. That’s undoubtedly part of the reason they’ve already started grabbing guys off waivers this offseason like Randy Rosario, Luke Farrell, and Cory Mazzoni, while adding Matt Carasiti to the 40-man roster. The Cubs also brought up Dillon Maples late last year, and he, too, figures to be in that mix. Minor league options, man. When it comes to relievers, they are so very valuable.

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  • MLB.com has a writeup on all the Cubs’ efforts to give back, including Joe Maddon’s annual Thanksmas efforts to provide meals to the homeless. And this GIF has a look at so many of those efforts:

  • Speaking of which, Rene Rivera is working to give back to Puerto Rico by helping to provide a Christmas for kids there who were so terribly impacted by Hurricane Maria.
  • And speaking of Rivera, Luke talked earlier about how the Cubs could have a logjam of catching talent at AAA this year if they bring in a veteran backup catcher – well, retaining Rivera sounds like a great option to me. He’s a fantastic defensive and receiving catcher, he’s worked well with a number of staffs, he’s already now acclimated with the Cubs’ pitchers, and he still hits very well against lefties.

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  • Wait, wait, wait, HOLY CRAP:

 


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.