Chicago Cubs: Joe Maddon opting for bullpen in matchup game


Maddon not afraid to go to the bullpen early and often down the stretch

The other day I posed the question if the Chicago Cubs should consider making a change at the backend of the rotation. It was geared specifically towards Kyle Hendricks and Dan Haren who have been less than stellar. While Joe Maddon likes to play matchups and isn’t concerned about a pitcher’s “ego” when pulling him early, those two haven’t exactly held up their end of the bargain. You could throw Jason Hammel in their as well.

But with the acquisition of Fernando Rodney–a successful closer in his career–Maddon seems to be favoring having five closers at the back of the bullpen to close out games and ignoring my question (as if he was listening anyway). Jake Arrieta, and to an extent Jon Lester have earned the right to go deeper into games. The rest of the time it’s a matchup game off that magical little card Joe keeps in his pocket–and also his gut feeling.

I’ve always looked at it as wanting your starter to go as deep into a game as possible. I think most managers still want that result, but some have built their bullpen to survive it when they don’t. In September, that becomes even more prevalent. More arms, more possibilities for matchups.

Every  late-inning reliever has moments when you just can’t help yourself to call them terrible, want to trade them, release them, etc. It happens. But the fact is that Pedro Strop, Jason Motte, and Hector Rondon have been very good in the late-innings. With Motte out, it appears Fernando Rodney will slide into that role.

Maddon is making it clear that winning is the priority and nothing else. It’s not personal. Getting pulled from a game early isn’t indicative of anything other than he sees something better from someone else in that particular moment. The Cubs haven’t been afraid to make changes to the bullpen on the fly this late in the season, and the release of Rafael Soriano and James Russell being outrighted shows that.

The Cubs need quality starts from everyone here on out, but Maddon is prepared to use what he has in the bullpen no matter how many innings the starter goes. Maddon is unconventional, and there’s no reason to start being it now.

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