The Cubs’ bats were held mostly down all night by Mets pitching, with a great start from Taijuan Walker and then Seth Lugo asked to finish out the final two innings. Credit to them and all that.
But the Cubs did have a golden opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the 9th, when Eric Sogard sent a single to the right-center gap, with Jake Marisnick running from first. There was one out, and the ball was cut off, so you would normally have expected that to be a first and third or maybe second and third situation. But Cubs third base coach Willie Harris got aggressive and sent Marisnick, who was easily thrown out:
Certainly a very nice relay there from Luis Guillorme, but I’ll note that the throw to him was not particularly impressive, and maybe that’s the split second at which Harris decided to go for broke, especially with the relay coming from that side of the field. Marisnick is really fast, the catcher has to swing the tag around from the other side, etc. But any time a critical play like that is ultimately not close, you’re going to look back at it and wonder if it was the wrong move. I think questioning it in hindsight is more than fair.
Maybe nothing happens after that if Marisnick is held – Jason Heyward and Sergio Alcantara were to follow, and maybe Heyward grounds the ball to a pulled in infield, and maybe Alcantara strikes out for the fourth time on the night. Heyward walked, and Alcantara did strike out again to end it, for what that’s worth.
Some quick and VERY dirty math tells me the send was probably the less-great move, but I bet it was at least close. Let’s call the success on that send, what, something like 33%? And if all you care about is getting that tying run in, then let’s say Heyward has at least a 40% chance of getting a hit OR generating a run-producing out. Even in Heyward’s struggles, that’s about what you get from combining his (abysmal) batting average and his non-hit-producing fly ball rate. (My word he has been bad this year.) So, like I said, it’s close, and your mileage may vary on how likely you think that send was to succeed.
Of course, you care about extending the inning, too, for a chance at that second run. And, in the case of sending Marisnick, if you’re wrong, you not only took that very close run off the table, you also generated an out. So maybe that 33/40 calculus is unreasonably generous toward the 33.
Either way, my point is: yeah, I think that was probably a bad send, even considering who was next up. But the decision and the situation was close enough that I’m not gonna blow a guy up for it, especially since it’s not like it has become a notice pattern. For the most part, I feel like Harris has done a good job.
Kinda sounds to me – between the lines – like David Ross landed in the same place (Cubs.com):
Asked if it was a mistake for Harris to send Marisnick, Ross said, “Mistakes are kind in hindsight. If he is safe, you are not going to say it was a mistake. I would say he erred on the side of aggressiveness. I think Willie is an aggressive baserunning coach. That’s kind of where I fall. We’ve talked about it.
“I thought it was a good send. It was a great play by [second baseman Luis] Guillorme. I thought he made one heck of a relay to [catcher James] McCann. One hop. He made it look a lot easier than I thought it was. Guillorme made a blind spin and turn. It was a nice play by them.”
All true stuff. I’m probably too conservative when it comes to leaving the potential tying run at third base with one out, because my instincts tell me, ah, bah, just put the ball in play and the game is tied. With a guy struggling as badly as Heyward, that’s probably not a reasonable background position from which to be operating.
Of course, that leaves you thinking less about this particular game situation and more about the construction of the lineup, and who will continue to get playing time as guys get healthy. I know Ross is not eager to give up on Heyward (heck, I could probably still be persuaded it’s a small sample), but when a key part of the hold-send calculus is “yeah, but the next guy kinda sucks hard right now,” well, you’ve got a bigger problem.
Assuming Kris Bryant’s HBP did not seriously injure him, and with a guy like Matt Duffy returning soon-ish, the Cubs will have an even tighter decision to make on playing time for Heyward. And I’ll probably be thinking back to this game whenever that decision is made.