Chicago Cubs: Tommy La Stella to start at 3B in the Wild Card game?
By Tim Stebbins
If all the rumors are true, then Joe Maddon‘s Chicago Cubs will be rolling out an unorthodox lineup for the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday night.
Sources have indicated that Tommy La Stella will be starting at third base for the Cubs, with Kris Bryant moving to left field. As a result, Chris Coghlan will have to come off the bench later in the game if he is to see any time on the field.
I trust in everything Joe Maddon has done, but this may not be the best decision, and that is for several reasons.
First, PNC Park has a spacious outfield, especially in Left Center field, which happens to be 389 feet. This is one of the largest parts of an outfield in the entire MLB. With that being said, wouldn’t it make more sense to start a natural outfielder in Coghlan opposed to a natural third baseman in Bryant?
This has nothing to do with what Bryant can or cannot do. He played outfield while in college and has played there in 22 games this season, so clearly he is versatile. Also, he is faster than Coghlan, so it’s not like his speed will prove to be detrimental to him. The bottom line here is Chris Coghlan is the more experienced outfielder, and he needs to be on the field in a do or die game, rather than someone who is out of their regular position.
Another reason this decision is questionable is because Tommy La Stella is not a natural third baseman. He has only played there in 12 of his career games (all this season), compared to 88 at second base, his natural position. Like Bryant, he has proven to be versatile by playing the hot corner. However, would it not make more sense to start Bryant at third, a guy who has appeared there in 144 games this season?
While all of this may be true, Bryant and La Stella may very well be fine during today’s game at their non-usual positions. Besides fielding, another intangible comes into play by starting La Stella: he will not be able to pinch hit. This season, La Stella is 6-for-14 as a pinch-hitter, which comes out to be a .429 batting average. On the other hand, Coghlan is only 6-for-26 as a pinch hitter, which comes out as a subpar .231 average.
All in all, both La Stella and Coghlan have not had much success against Pittsburgh’s probable starter, Gerrit Cole. La Stella is 1-for-6 in his career, a .167 average. Coghlan is only 2-for-13, a .154 average. Either option may not have the best game. But when it comes to postseason baseball, pitching and defense are what wins games, and having Coghlan’s defense in left field and Bryant’s defense at third is the best option. We can only hope that Joe Maddon knows what he is doing.
Then again, that is why Maddon is the manager of the Cubs and I am not, right?