After Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon pulled starter Jason Hammel after just 39 pitches, needless to say, he wasn’t happy. Just like before they’re both keeping it “in-house”. So who was right? Maddon in pulling him, or Hammel for being upset?
We’ve been here before. This isn’t anything new. The Chicago Cubs‘ Jason Hammel has felt the early hook often, especially last year. In the second half, his performances had made that a non-issue. But his last two performances have been less than stellar and Maddon made the move after just 39 pitches yesterday. With a Dodgers lineup stacked with lefties, Maddon felt that a move was necessary. Hammel didn’t see it that way.
With such a substantial lead, you wouldn’t think Maddon would be so focused on a game that seems “insignificant”, but that’s not really how he’s wired. After struggling the first time through the lineup (five hits in the first 12 batters), Maddon didn’t see things improving. It was less of a knock on Hammel then it was a chance to see what the bullpen could do.
"“Watching them one time through, it looked like they were on him a little bit. And I thought that was a great lineup for ‘Rob Z.’ One of the things with bullpen arms – I want to put them in a meaningful spot. – h/t Patrick Mooney, CSN Chicago"
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In Hammel’s first six starts after the break, he had been spectacular. A 6-0 record with a 0.95 ERA, while allowing just a .172 average by opponents. His last two have been polar opposites, dropping both games while opponents have hit .455 while he’s posted a 14.29 ERA
While Hammel was less than discreet on the mound when Maddon came out to make the change, he’s been professional off the mound.
"“That’s a conversation for me and him,” Hammel said. “There’s no reason for that to be in the papers. It’s a professional way of working through it. We’ll leave it there.”"
A healthy working relationship?
The relationship between the two has been a unique one since the two were in Tampa Bay together. After last year when Hammel appeared to run out of gas, the cautiousness seems warranted. And while Hammel’s comment that he “didn’t even pitch today” was a snarky one, it is somewhat true. Hammel was averaging 5.7 days in-between starts in his first six after the break, it was under five (4.7) in the last two.
The success of the rotation has been a rotating door. Each pitcher has had a fine stretch, and each had their struggles. Assuming this is the beginning of the second-half collapse of Hammel is unwise. The Dodgers simply had a lineup that matched up well, and that became clear immediately.
Reading too much into yesterday’s game is nothing more that chat room fodder. While tense, the two have handled their differences professionally. I would expect that to continue the rest of this season. What pitcher wouldn’t be upset about being pulled in that situation? It was three runs, not eight. But Maddon has to put the team in the most opportune position to win. I can see the argument from both sides so let’s call it a push.