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About last night

by on May 23, 2014

The Cubs are taking on the Padres right now (the Padres are wearing their most-excellent Taco unis tonight, by the way), but I’m still stewing a little over last night’s debacle. A few thoughts:

1. I’m sure pitchers like to see W’s pile up next to their names because that’s what all kind of grew up looking at. Even those of us fans who embrace advanced stats like seeing their favorite pitchers rack them up. But I’m also pretty sure Jeff Samardzija is a smart guy who knows that he’s not actually being evaluated based on wins by any front office that matters, and wouldn’t want to play for an organization stupid enough to value that stat [pointed side-eye in the direction of Ruben Amaro]. If he keeps up this kind of performance, he’s going to get paid handsomely by the Cubs or by someone else, wins or no wins (more on that later). If anything, the freak winless streak is drawing attention to the Shark’s otherwise extraordinary performance this year, and leading people to speculate about him as an early favorite to start the All-Star Game or even take home the Cy Young award. So let’s all stop acting like he’s getting “boned” by the Cubs offense/defense/relief corps. Jeff Samardzija is going to be just fine, thank you.
2. I’m on record as a firm believer in the Theo & Jed plan, but I do have a few quibbles on the edges. Two instances might not make a pattern yet, but there seems to be a tendency toward sticking with ineffective expensive relievers. I’m obviously talking about 2013 Marmol and 2014 Jose Veras. I understand the desire to generate some kind of return on investment, but Veras seems as unable to find the strike zone as Marmol did last year, and each outing is at least as likely to lower any potential trade value as it to boost it. In the meantime, he’s costing the Cubs actual games and more importantly clogging up a roster spot. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and not let sunk costs dictate actions.
3. This is a minor point – but worth making – about the double-switch Rick Renteria made heading into the ninth. Since Mike Olt had made the last out in the eighth, Ricky inserted the pitcher (Hector Rondon) into Olt’s lineup spot, and “defensive replacement” (more on that in a sec) Darwin Barney was inserted in the pitcher’s spot, with Luis Valbuena sliding over to third base. It was kind of an automatic move, and I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it ended up costing the Cubs in ways both unpredictable (Barney’s error allowing the Yankees to tie the game) and totally predictable (taking Olt’s power threat out of a potential extra inning game).
The issue I have with the switch is that it was entirely unnecessary for two reasons First, while Barney is a great defender and nobody would’ve reasonably expected him to make that error, neither Olt nor Valbuena are defensive liabilities who need to be lifted for a “defensive replacement” in a tight spot, making Barney’s insertion relatively pointless at best. Second, the only reason to insert the pitcher into Olt’s spot in the lineup is to allow him to work more than one inning. However no matter what happened in the ninth, Rondon was going to work only the ninth, so he might as well have been slotted in the 9-hole, due to lead off the bottom of the inning.
These are minor points, but hopefully we see slightly smarter lineup and bullpen management and less hand-wringing over the Shark. Anyway, now it’s time to enjoy what has turned into a 5-1 Cubs lead in San Diego (and hopefully stays that way).

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