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Friday, October 20, 2017

Theo Epstein: Joe Maddon has taken enough heat, don’t blame NLCS on Cubs manager | NBC Sports Chicago

“It’s not manager against manager,” Epstein said. “That stuff just gets under the microscope so much this time of year. It’s players performing. And when you get a lead in the series – and when you’ve got a bunch of relievers throwing well – you can make tactically aggressive decisions. Your strategies tend to work.

“When you’re in a tough spot late in the game – and you’re searching for consistency in the ‘pen – it just puts all managers in tough spots.”

Jim Furtado Posted: October 20, 2017 at 02:46 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: October 20, 2017 at 03:18 PM (#5559154)
I can only presume Thed is responding to talk radio nutters.... because I know of no one who is doing this.

The Cubs lost because the Dodgers kicked their ass good, especially the pitchers. Absolutely, positively, nothing Joe could have done differently was going to change the NLCS results... unless we find out he was spiking Bryzzo's gatorade with roofies for some reason.

You can certainly make some pitching quibbles here, lineup quibbles there... but I see no different levers that up to anything other than a rather quick and deserved exit.
   2. ajnrules Posted: October 20, 2017 at 03:28 PM (#5559161)
Well, everybody seems to be putting the blame on Dusty Baker for losing the NLDS, at least it seems like the team is.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2017 at 03:32 PM (#5559162)
The Cubs lost because the Dodgers kicked their ass good, especially the pitchers. Absolutely, positively, nothing Joe could have done differently was going to change the NLCS results... unless we find out he was spiking Bryzzo's gatorade with roofies for some reason.

This can be 100% true, and you can still say Maddon did a bad job in the playoffs. There's no contradiction. Criticism shouldn't only be about pinning blame, you want the guy to improve next time.
   4. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: October 20, 2017 at 03:46 PM (#5559174)
This can be 100% true, and you can still say Maddon did a bad job in the playoffs. There's no contradiction. Criticism shouldn't only be about pinning blame, you want the guy to improve next time.


The problem is that I don't think he did do a "bad" job. Armchair managing is surely the great national pasttime at BBTF - I enjoy it, too - but the only real quibbles I come up with would probably be going to Lackey rather than Davis in game, but even that didn't really rise to the level of Showalterian "We were saving Britton till next year" level. It was at least defensible, even if I might have considered going the other direction.

My only other real beef would probably not be not starting Happ at some point - with no one hitting, what the hell - give the rookie who had a really nice year a shot and see if that creates a spark.

A few instances where I might have double-switched differently - Martin should have had zero PAs.

IOW - while I wouldn't say Joe was outstanding, I'd give him the classic "gentleman's C". By no means a great couple weeks of managing, but nothing I feel any real need to ##### about beyond/more than the relatively tame disagreements I offered up in chatters at the time.

So anyway, sure - you're right... it's not about blame, but "do better next time".... the problem is that I just don't see a lot Joe could do better next time. Nobody hit much. Nobody in the bullpen could throw strikes.

Quite frankly - I think I had more beefs with some of the decisions last year in the playoffs than I did in this one, if you can believe that.
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 20, 2017 at 03:48 PM (#5559176)
Okay, Baker gets fired for losing the DS. Maddon takes the heat for losing the LCS. I wonder if the Manager of the Year will be invited back for 2018 if his team loses the World Series.
   6. Scott Lange Posted: October 20, 2017 at 04:17 PM (#5559194)
Quite frankly - I think I had more beefs with some of the decisions last year in the playoffs than I did in this one, if you can believe that.

Absolutely. If it weren't for Jason Heyward's oratorical skills, Maddon's use of Chapman in Games 6 & 7 would've been remembered as an all-time managerial blunder- worse than Grady Little, easily.

But Maddon's still a pretty good manager overall.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 20, 2017 at 04:25 PM (#5559200)
the only real quibbles I come up with would probably be going to Lackey rather than Davis in game, but even that didn't really rise to the level of Showalterian "We were saving Britton till next year" level.

Apologies if you've explained this elsewhere and I haven't seen it, but how do you see it as any different other than it being in Game 2 instead of an elimination game?
   8. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: October 20, 2017 at 04:41 PM (#5559217)
Apologies if you've explained this elsewhere and I haven't seen it, but how do you see it as any different other than it being in Game 2 instead of an elimination game?


That's the big thing - it was game 2.... but beyond that - or I suppose, mostly because of that - I think I can buy into the idea that you know you need another bullpen inning somewhere, and if you're decided you don't want to go the multi-inning route with Davis...

Adding to that, I think the Cubs offensive struggles mean it might be Lackey time - though that's somewhat defeatist.

FWIW - one thing I think I was in error in at the time, I believe Jansen got PH for in the 9th, didn't he? Don't remember if I said it in the chatter or not - my mindset at the time was really "we ain't scoring off Jensen, so it's futile to go to Davis until Jansen is gone, at minimum". However, I believe I was wrong and that Jansen had gotten PH for.

In any case, I will say that I have moved more towards the Davis camp since the game...
   9. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 20, 2017 at 04:44 PM (#5559220)
I would co-sign #4 in its entirety. In fact, I almost wrote something very similar. Maddon made some managerial decisions that I disagreed with in real time, but, outside of the use of Lackey in Game 2 (as for not using Davis being defensible: okay, but Lackey still probably doesn't rise to your best Plan B there), nothing where I think I was obviously "right" especially recognizing that Maddon had more information available than me. His managing was much worse in last year's World Series, especially Games 6 and 7.

As for Dusty Baker being fired for losing the NLDS, I really can't see how he bears the blame for that. Maybe bench Werth and/or bat him much lower in the lineup. But after flirting with going with Tanner Roark over the obviously superior Steven Strasburg on full rest, he made the right call for Game 4. In Game 5, he brought his best pitcher - Max Scherzer - in to try to get enough innings to get to the back of the bullpen and he fell victim to the most bizarre series-winning inning in the history of baseball. Maybe if Baker knew the rules somewhat better, he could have successfully gotten the umpires to call Baez out on the dropped third strike. But that's an unbelievably fine nit you're trying to pick there. The Nats' series came down to the Nationals' best hitter batting in a one-run game with the Nationals probably having a better remaining bullpen if that game went into extra innings. Ultimately, it's on the players to perform.
   10. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: October 20, 2017 at 05:08 PM (#5559232)
fell victim to the most bizarre series-winning inning in the history of baseball.


Ain't that the truth.

It was Back Monkey days Cubsian... It felt weird being on the other side of such ridiculousness.
   11. TomH Posted: October 20, 2017 at 05:16 PM (#5559235)
Baker was fired for losing multiple NLDSsssses over time. Not terribly relevant how much was his fault; mostly perception, and a lot of bad luck (how many games can one franchise lose in October by one run, where a bounce or bloop here or there would change everything!?), and some on him. But he had to go.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2017 at 05:27 PM (#5559238)
I'm more with Snapper in #3 (WTF?). Basically the entire team outside of (arguably) the rotation had a terrible series and that includes Joe. And while it's obvious easier to say "hey Javy, if you hadn't swung at that eye-level pitch, you'd at least see another pitch" than it is to say "hey, if you'd gone to Edwards there, Hernandez doesn't hit the GS", Joe made a few questionable choices in the series and none of them worked out. And really it dates back to the Nats series which was a minor miracle that we won.

But no, of course he didn't lose us the series, that was a solid teamwide effort.

1. The nibbling by both starters and relievers was so consistent that it looked like the Cubs' game plan. Whether one Maddon/Bosio/pitchers felt forced into because of the offensive struggles I obviously can't say. 820 pitches, 28 BB in 5 games.

2. G2 was probably his low point. The Cubs had no business even being in that game -- 12 Ks, 3 H, 1 BB out of the offense while K'ing just 6 and walking 9. 2 of those walks preceded Turner's HR.

3. Is it no longer a manager's job to get his team out of a funk. It's not like it was just this series -- only 17 runs scored (9 in that bizarre game) and 25 walks handed out in the NLDS too.

4. The avoidance of 3rd time through probably is the optimal strategy when you've got a good, efficient pen. That's not the Cubs and the same strategy nearly derailed last year's run.

5. Sorry, today's closers are not the firemen of old. Maybe once a series you can rely on them for a 6-out save but it can't be a regular part of the strategy.

6. How do you not start Happ at some point? He hit LHP, he hit RHP, he couldn't possibly hit worse than the guys who were in the lineup.

Anyway, Joe's been an awesome regular season manager but he has been, at best, a middling postseason one.

And yeah, we just lost to a team that is much better this year. On the year vs the Dodgers, 3-8 with a 19-50 run differential. We were outscored by nearly 3 a game and averaged fewer than 2 runs scored per game. I hope they didn't figure out some magic formula for destroying Cub hitters that every other team is going to figure out this offseason. There was nothing Joe could do that was going to overcome that superiority. Really a minor miracle that we had a shot in G1 and G2 and won G4 ... heck I wasn't really expecting us to get out of the NLDS so I'm happy with how far we got.
   13. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: October 20, 2017 at 06:31 PM (#5559256)
I suppose if you want to say one big black mark on the Lackey/Davis decision - it was inconsistent with how Joe managed the postseason and NLCS in particular. It felt like he managing scared*, in that he felt the team was overmatched and he constantly had to manage in a manner meant to vulture undeserved wins... and I suspect it's natural that a manager feels he needs to push more buttons to get some crazy right combination to limp to a win if that's on your mind.

Suddenly, in a game the team has no right to be in - on the road game 2 no less - he DOES have a chance to really steal a win - just find a way to get 6 outs while praying for a throwing error or something. And he starts playing it like it's a long series with plenty of baseball for a good team left, almost like a straight-up regular season game (pretend Lackey got banished to the bullpen or something).

Not sure it's exactly analogous (and it may not be true by the odds, for all I know) - but there's a maxim in blackjack on those toss-up hands, where the pure (no 10s counting, blahblah) odds of a pull or stand say it's 50/50, but I've always heard that you're best served sticking with your choice. Don't suddenly change your strategy.

I suppose the prescription-only sedation medication that was the Cubs offense made me too groggy to get that worked up about it at the time, but - now that the little umpires of manager judgement in my head have had time to view multiple angles, I might overturn my original thoughts. Still - it's kind of the Jose Lobaton pickoff of replays. I mean, sure - it's the right call, but don't you feel a little silly to have replay used that way?

*Finally - let me just say that I don't mean "managing scared" in a derogatory way. I probably say it because that's how I'd have managed it. We got lucky to escape DC. The Dodgers cruised. They were clearly a better regular season team. Even in the playoffs, you never go full Bob Boone (A runner on? Oooo. Bunt! Steal! Hit& Run! Why are all these buttons red! GAAAHHHH!!! I must push them all!)... but Joe didn't go full Bob Boone. Of course, offensively, I suppose the Cubs didn't really put enough runners on to constitute a good sample size. But he managed scared on the pitching side and I would have, too (that includes Martin ever seeing a PA).
   14. Nero Wolfe, Indeed Posted: October 20, 2017 at 07:16 PM (#5559266)
I'm pretty sure Maddon had a real good idea his team was overmatched, based on their head-to-head play this year, and was just scrambling to get by. He won one, which pretty good when your pitchers issue more walks than your hitters produce runs.

I too, disagreed with the Lackey decision. But given today's bullpen usage patterns, I'm not going to hang that on the manager. Other than I thought Lackey's body language on the mound was terrible and indicated he really, REALLY didn't want to be in that situation. Perhaps Maddon should have noted that and got him out of there.
   15. The Duke Posted: October 20, 2017 at 08:02 PM (#5559275)
How could you watch that series and conclude Maddon is the issue. The cubs were outclassed mightily by a much better and deeper team. Everyone in the NL better get used to this
   16. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2017 at 08:23 PM (#5559286)
I suppose "managing scared" is too harsh but "managing desperate" I think is fair and it's how I felt in the WS last year too. Yet, as you note, he didn't manage desperate with the Lackey call. He also didn't manage desperate in continuing to sit Happ rather than seeing if he could get a spark.

But I was also concerned last year and it was repeated this year that the Cubs were employing a strategy that was likely to lead to managing desperately -- namely going to the bullpen too early but then also assuming that a close lead can't be held without a spectacular performance from your best reliever. It's just been a terrible combination of (a) we want more than 3 innings from the pen every game but (b) we are going to switch relievers constantly to get the platoon advantage ... leading to (c) now it's Davis/Chapman for 6 outs because I've already burned 4 relievers in 2 innings.

(Upon review, he didn't do (b) in the Dodgers' series ... maybe I'm wrong about that step.)

That approach makes sense if you're the 2016 Indians with half your rotation on the DL, trying to go with starters on 3 days rest and you have a great bullpen headed by two outstanding guys in Miller and Allen. It probably makes sense for the 2017 Yanks for similar reasons; and Dave Roberts at least feels like he has the option to go that route if the starter gets in trouble. But for better or worse, the 2016-17 Cubs pitching talent was rotation-heavy and, game as they were, neither Chapman nor Davis showed themselves to be as effective in multiple innings like somebody like Miller has (which could just be random luck either way of course).

I just have a hard time with these usage decisions. None is blatantly terrible, the pitchers (or Cubs' strategy of) nibbling limited Joe's options, but it was a frustrating combination of quick hooks and asking a lot.

G1: Q faces only 18 batters (but 89 pitches not a good sign). The pen is still tired G5, you know you don't have Davis, the score is only 2-2 ... on the other hand, Q just gave up 2 runs. But then it's Rondon for just 2 batters (lead off HR) ... how does this make sense. Not having been rostered vs the Nats, he's the one fresh reliever we've got. Joe does have a lot of faith in Monty (usually rewarded) and he ends up using him for 8 batters. But it took him 24 pitches and 4 batters just to get the last two outs of the 6th -- that's troubling. (Thank you Austin Barnes for swinging at the first pitch.)

So not so surprisingly, facing 3 RH batters and the pitcher, the next inning starts HR, double, failed bunt, IF single ... and the game is nearly lost and in comes Lackey for an RBI single.

I don't know if I'd have had the guts to do it but I had suggested from the start that maybe Lackey needed to take one of those first two starts, probably preferably G1, just because the staff was beat, Lester had thrown a lot of pitches in G4, Q a few in G5. Given the pitches/PA of Q in G1 and Lester in G2, in retrospect it looks like it would have been a good idea to give each an extra day or two. Yes, it would have amounted to likely punting G1 and Lackey wasn't likely to give the pen as much rest as it needed ... but neither did Joe/Q anyway.

G2: There was no choice but to pull Lester at 21 BF, 103 pitches ... maybe he could have gotten out of that inning but that's it. No real issues with pitcher management in this game until the Lackey/Davis decision which is not an easy one (I give Joe more slack here than I did in real time). Edwards for 4 batters, Strop for 4 ... pushing Duensing to 7 is questionable (i.e. there's a solid argument to have Davis start the 9th) but he almost got away with it and Duensing was pitching efficiently (just 21 pitches).

G3: Just an embarrassing mess. Joe did stick with Hendricks through 23 batters, a bit undone by Bryant's error, and the game was still at least close ... until that ####### walk to Darvish. I can't pin that on Joe.

G4: At this point it almost doesn't matter. A bit odd that Arrieta is the guy he'd push deep and then another Davis marathon but it worked.

Cub relievers:

G4: 10 BF, 50 pitches, 27 strikes
G3: 18 BF, 72 pitches, 38 strikes
G2: 17 BF, 71 pitches, 38 strikes
G1: 16 BF, 69 pitches, 37 strikes

Of course Cub pitchers threw a good percentage of strikes in G5 and look how that turned out!

So yes, the Dodgers were just a better team in pretty much every way in that series and there's nothing that Joe (or Bryant or Rizzo or Hendricks) could have done on their own to turn that around. For god's sake, Cub batters drew 5 walks in 154 PA -- that's Ozzie Guillen. Best performances (I kid you not!):

Cub pitchers: 3 for 9
Javy: 2 for 12, 2 HR, 1 BB -- 167/231/667, best OPS other than pitchers/Avila
Kyle: 167/286/417

And of course Arrieta and Lester gave it everything they had and kept the team in the game; Strop had 2 clean enough innings. Edwards had just that one mind-numbingly inconceivable walk.
   17. Andere Richtingen Posted: October 20, 2017 at 08:58 PM (#5559303)
I don't think Maddon managed the postseason games well, but for the Love of God, the Cubs played terribly*, with seemingly every player at some point letting the team down in a huge way, many doing it over and over and over again. And yet, they won four games out of ten. A lot of that was luck but there was also a lot of persistence involved. It never felt like a great team being lazy, it looked more like a slumping/unwhole but still confident team being overmatched by a better team. In both series, really. I think in most cases playing like that, you don't even make it to the LCS -- not only making it but winning a game against a team as great as the Dodgers despite playing that badly, that's pretty good in my book. And perhaps Maddon gets some credit for that.

More than the in-game decision-making, I think it's reasonable to fault Maddon for managing a team that in some key ways forgot how it won a World Series. Remember 0 and 2 to 4 and 2? Not a lot of that was happening, not just in the postseason, but in much of the regular season as well. Of course Maddon isn't the one at the plate flailing away, but a manager's job is to keep his players focused on a winning game plan. Perhaps that is counter to his easy-going hands-off approach, but maybe what we are seeing is the downside of that approach, and thus, the downside of Maddon as a manager. That doesn't mean we should ignore the upside.

*the offense was terrible, the bullpen was terrible, and the starting pitching was spotty, but despite the errors and the criticism my impression is that the defense remained quite good.
   18. Greg Pope Posted: October 21, 2017 at 10:25 AM (#5559502)
So anyway, sure - you're right... it's not about blame, but "do better next time".... the problem is that I just don't see a lot Joe could do better next time. Nobody hit much. Nobody in the bullpen could throw strikes.

I'm definitely not saying this was a determining factor in the NLCS, but Joe really screwed up in game 2 of the NLDS. He should have brought in a lefty to face Harper. Does the NLCS go differently if the Cubs sweep the Nats and are well rested? I'm not going to claim it makes a difference in the final outcome, but it's possible.
   19. Greg Pope Posted: October 21, 2017 at 10:29 AM (#5559503)
4. The avoidance of 3rd time through probably is the optimal strategy when you've got a good, efficient pen. That's not the Cubs and the same strategy nearly derailed last year's run.

5. Sorry, today's closers are not the firemen of old. Maybe once a series you can rely on them for a 6-out save but it can't be a regular part of the strategy.


I think theses are key. It's like in the regular season where it's become "Save situation? Closer goes in". In the post season, it's become the default decision to get your starters out early and go to the bullpen. Also, to bring starters in relief. The latter goes back further but I think it's become more and more the standard call. The former I trace to the Royals. But they had a great bullpen (and bad starters). I think it's the "I can't be criticized" move now. But, as you said, the Cubs don't have a good bullpen. It's not the smart move for them. I'm very surprised that the front office lets this happen, but after 2 years, it's obvious that they're on board with the strategy.
   20. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 21, 2017 at 01:15 PM (#5559538)
Looks like they've found the scapegoat - Cubs Fire Pitching Coach Chris Bosio. Don't think he & Maddon really had the tools this season, especially in the bullpen, but it's not like Theo was going to take the fall.
   21. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 21, 2017 at 01:31 PM (#5559541)
Speaking of scapegoats - Dave Righetti Out As San Francisco Pitching Coach. Bad day for pitching coaches, and it's only early afternoon in the east. Some guys are going to be nervous if their phone rings today.
   22. Spahn Insane, stimulus-funded BurlyMan™ Posted: October 21, 2017 at 02:52 PM (#5559562)
Wow— I’m not a fan of this move. Bosio was instrumental in resurrecting a number of floundering pitching careers, including one Jake Arrieta’s. The Cubs are going to regret this.
   23. asinwreck Posted: October 21, 2017 at 05:05 PM (#5559596)
Righetti had quite the legacy in San Francisco, and I wonder if Melcanon's injury was what led to this decision.

Bruce Bochy's going to have a bunch of new coaches next year. Wonder what that conversation was like.
   24. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 21, 2017 at 05:55 PM (#5559615)
it's not like Theo was going to take the fall.


Why on Earth does anybody need "to take the fall" for three consecutive NLCS appearances with a World Series victory mixed in?
   25. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 21, 2017 at 05:58 PM (#5559618)
in retrospect it looks like it would have been a good idea to give each an extra day or two. Yes, it would have amounted to likely punting G1 and Lackey wasn't likely to give the pen as much rest as it needed ... but neither did Joe/Q anyway.


The problem with starting Lackey in Game 1 is that it not only punts Game 1 but also punts Game 5. The Game 2 starter can't start Game 5 on normal rest (barring a rainout), so you either have to go with your top 3 starters on short rest in Games 5, 6, and 7, or you have to give Lackey two starts - Games 1 and 5.
   26. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: October 21, 2017 at 06:44 PM (#5559635)
Why on Earth does anybody need "to take the fall" for three consecutive NLCS appearances with a World Series victory mixed in?


Yeah, I don't get that. Maybe start making personnel shakeups if they miss the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, but right now, it's simply a case of being less than a year removed from winning it all and now running into what was looking like an all-time great team in the NLCS.
   27. Greg Pope Posted: October 21, 2017 at 07:34 PM (#5559674)
The problem with starting Lackey in Game 1 is that it not only punts Game 1 but also punts Game 5. The Game 2 starter can't start Game 5 on normal rest (barring a rainout), so you either have to go with your top 3 starters on short rest in Games 5, 6, and 7, or you have to give Lackey two starts - Games 1 and 5.

The Cubs had 4 starters that they were fine to use. Quintana, Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta. Punting game 1 would not have been that much of a problem.
   28. Andere Richtingen Posted: October 21, 2017 at 07:38 PM (#5559676)
I don't understand Bosio being cut loose but there are no falls that need to be taken. There might be a few people who are crying out for Maddon to be fired, or Epstein, but no one is talking about Bosio that I have heard, and it would be ridiculous to think that firing Bosio would provide a distraction for that. If it were happening to a significant extent, and it isn't.

Whatever the reason is for Bosio being cut, it has nothing to do with that. If I had to pick one thing, it's Maddon and Bosio not working together to Maddon's liking, and Jim Hickey being available.
   29. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 21, 2017 at 09:19 PM (#5559771)
The Cubs had 4 starters that they were fine to use. Quintana, Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta. Punting game 1 would not have been that much of a problem.


Fair enough. It's not necessary to start Lackey twice. You just lose the ability to start one of Quintana, Lester, or Hendricks twice. I still don't think it was a good idea to give Lackey a start and I don't see how you can look back at this series and think that would have made a difference. The Cubs scored 2-1-1-3-1 runs. With offensive output like that, you're lucky to win the one game the Cubs won (and ditto for the Washington series, where their first two wins were 3-0 and 2-1).
   30. Greg Pope Posted: October 21, 2017 at 11:35 PM (#5559991)
You're right, Kiko. The offense didn't show up. The pitching decisions didn't make the difference.
   31. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: October 23, 2017 at 10:38 AM (#5560314)
How could you watch that series and conclude Maddon is the issue. The cubs were outclassed mightily by a much better and deeper team. Everyone in the NL better get used to this

This is pretty funny coming from the guy who seems to think the only difference between the Cubs/Cards the last few years is Matheny/Maddon.

I also disagree with the last sentence. The Dodgers have a great young core - Seager/Bellinger/Kershaw (add Jansen if you want). They also had a number of people have career years - from already good but journeymen types to actual bad players. They obviously have tons of resources to paper over mistakes/injuries/ineffectiveness, but there really isn't any reason to look at that team and think they're in a league of their own. In fact, there were those who said similar things about the Cubs after last season. An unbeatable juggernaut isn't starting Curtis Granderson in CF in a clinching game, like the Dodgers did in G4 of the NLCS.

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