In game 2 of the NLDS between the Nationals and Cubs, Joe Maddon had a big decision to make in the 8th inning, he made the wrong decision, but not for the reason you might think. Bottom of the 8th, Cubs up 3-1 with a pinch hitter, almost definitely Adam Lind no matter the pitcher, then Trey Turner, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon due up for the Nats. In case you’re new to baseball, those are three of the best hitters on one of the best teams.
After Lind reached and then Harper hit a two run homerun to tie the game, everyone in Chicago was wondering why a lefty like Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing or Justin Wilson didn’t come in to face him. Sure Maddon had his reasons, Edwards is good against lefties and he didn’t trust any of his lefthanders.
But I was wondering something different, this is the highest leverage situation in the game, don’t you want your very best pitcher you have available? Hint: the answer is yes. And who is the Cubs best reliever? Is it A. Wade Davis or B. Wade Davis. Hint: It’s C. Wade Davis obviously you idiot. So why wasn’t the Cubs best pitcher in the game in the most important spot? Because Joe Maddon is no wizard or magician, he’s just like every other manager who can’t quite wrap his head around going against what everyone else does. Because the Save statistic is antiquated and stupid and if you don’t believe me please read this written by someone much smarter than myself. In short, we judge a closer by his saves when in reality, certain saves, like holding a three run lead in the 9th, are not impressive and not nearly as impactful as say coming into the game with 1 out in the 8th inning with the tying run at the plate in the form of one of the best hitters in the game. The most telling line from the article is this, “managers are trying to maximize the saves for their closer, as opposed to the number of wins for their team.”
In many instances in the game, it’s hard to blame managers for relief pitching choices or when to take out the starter. If he leaves the starter in and gives up the big hit, people will say, “why did he leave him in?” If he takes him out and the reliever gives up the big hit, people will say, “why did he take him out?” But when you had a chance to win the game but end up leaving your best pitcher unused and with a mouthful of David barbeque sunflower seeds in his mouth, and end up losing the game because of it, now that’s a big fat glaring mistake. All thanks to the stupid Save. Maybe Joe Maddon will figure it out next time, but I wouldn’t count on it.
For Cubs fans, hopefully he doesn’t end the season talking with Buck Showalter about what it’s like to lose a tight game with your best pitcher going unused. We shall see.
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