Late Game Moves, RISP Woes, Uncanny Defense, Crazy Win, and Other Bullets

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Late Game Moves, RISP Woes, Uncanny Defense, Crazy Win, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

joe maddon speaksThe Little Girl’s first wiffle ball practice – and my first coaching experience – was a huge success last evening. Like I said yesterday, I was pretty nervous about how it would go (I don’t know what I’m doing, and I feel responsible to help these kids start the process of really understanding, and most importantly, enjoying baseball/softball). But it was good! The kids had fun, we got to get into all the basics of the sport, and I got a shocking amount of additional exercise.

… and then I stayed up until 1:30am ET to watch that crazy game. Given that The Little Boy was on me like the cutest, but most gratingly loud alarm clock at 5:28am, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to the Cubs for pulling that one out. I would not be remotely as chipper (or capable) today if they hadn’t.

  • Let me say unambiguously in the first Bullet that I’m happy about last night’s win, and it was fun to watch in a completely bizarre and masochistic way. I’ve already expressed the happiness in the EBS and in this morning’s bit on hero Travis Wood. So, when the next few Bullets are about things I didn’t so much like, you won’t jump all over me for getting negative despite a win, right?
  • Can you imagine if that 12th inning – the bases loaded, no outs, no runs scored for the Brewers – had happened to the Cubs? People would have been apoplectic. I had a wry smile when, with nobody out, a fly to shallow center wasn’t quite deep enough for the Brewers to send hulking first baseman Chris Carter tagging from third. The Brewers, you see, elected not to do the thing that Joe Maddon and the Cubs did elect to do with the game on the line: pinch run for the big bopping first baseman who reached base to lead off the inning. Maddon did it with Anthony Rizzo in the top of the 9th, but the Brewers declined to do the same (their bench was depleted by then, though, and losing Carter would have been even harder to figure out later on, if necessary). Maddon has consistently done that in his time with the Cubs – if I remember correctly, that was the fourth time Maddon has pinch run for Rizzo in the 9th inning or later of a game where the Cubs were closely trailing. I understand the theory of it – you have to stay in the game before you can worry about the fact that you lost your best hitter – but, on instinct, I haven’t agreed with it each time (indeed, last night, although pinch runner Javy Baez scored the tying run, it happened in a way that Rizzo would have done the same). The increase in chances of scoring from Rizzo to Baez, to me, just feels* less than the chances that you will score either way and will want to keep Rizzo (and Baez) available. In this one, the move cost the Cubs multiple key Rizzo at bats in extra innings, and also cost them their best bat off the bench in Baez.
  • Speaking of which, later that inning, Maddon elected to pinch hit Miguel Montero for David Ross with two outs and a runner on third with the pitcher spot up next. It was a really strange decision, because it virtually guaranteed that the Brewers would just walk Montero, and let their closer face the only guy left on the Cubs’ bench, Tim Federowicz (who struck out in ugly fashion on three pitches). Just like that, the Cubs got a worse match-up and burned both David Ross and Federowicz. I truly do believe Joe Maddon is among the best tactical managers I’ve ever observed closely, but that 9th inning was a tough one for me to follow. Alls well that ends well because the Cubs won (and I did like how Maddon managed all the rest of the game, as usual, except for that Addison Russell bunt). But it’s still worth discussing. After all, maybe I missed something. It’s just that Maddon gives us so few opportunities to disagree with his moves …
  • Some specific love for Maddon: when he came out to talk to Travis Wood about the 12th inning jam, he told Wood that if he got out of it, he was going to get an at bat (CSN). How perfectly perfect is that to say to Wood in that situation?
  • In the 12th inning, Kris Bryant played left field, third base, and first base.
  • The Cubs were 0-13 with runners in scoring position last night. They were 0-4 the night before. They were 0-6 in the Sunday loss to the Pirates. If you were looking for a reason that the offense is “struggling,” look no further. I know people want more narratively satisfying answers, but this is a fluke. The reality is production with runners in scoring position ALWAYS regresses to the true talent mean over a long enough horizon. Sometimes teams go through stretches like this where their sequencing is crummy, and the hits don’t get bunched up together enough to score runs. It doesn’t last forever. Just keep getting on base, keep hitting the ball hard, and the rest takes care of itself.
  • It was notable after the first game in the series, and it was REALLY notable after last night: the Brewers’ defensive positioning has been incredible. To be sure, some of it is good fortune that the volume of balls going right at the shifted player has been so high (sometimes you make the right shift, and the ball does that 1 in 5 thing and goes the other way), but they deserve credit for taking the risks and nailing it so often. Again and again, I’d see the ball come off the bat and assume it was a hit, only to find a Brewers defender standing somewhere I would have otherwise thought crazy. I wonder if there’s something to be gleaned – by the Cubs’ analytics geeks, I mean – from whatever it is that the Brewers are doing. It’s been uncanny.
  • Two TBD Cubs games now have start time: the June 5 game against the Diamondbacks will start at 1:20pm CT, and the June 19 game against the Pirates will start at 7:08pm CT (and it’s now an ESPN game).
  • I sure do love the completely random and hilarious Cubs stuff you can find on Amazon if you click around for a while. For example? A Cubs high heel shoe bottle opener.
  • Absolutely the right philosophy:

*(I’ve not seen the data on the increase in run expectancy from a below average runner at first to an above average runner at first with nobody out. I put “feels” in there because I could absolutely be wrong about this.)


Author: Brett Taylor

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