Chicago Cubs: Putting a grade on Manager Joe Maddon for 2017

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Manager Joe Maddon guided the Chicago Cubs to a third-consecutive NLCS appearance. We put a grade on what the skipper gets for the 2017 season.

Manager. . Joe Maddon. B -.

With the Chicago Cubs 2017 season wrapped up, Joe Maddon completed his third year on the North Side, and by all accounts, three of the most successful seasons in the history of the organization.

In that span, he has won 292 regular-season games, and of course, has racked up 18 postseason wins.

In 2017, Maddon guided his defending champs to the playoffs for the third consecutive year, the first time that happened since1906-08. It was the first time the club made three-consecutive NLCS appearances.

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What have you done lately?

Expectations are high after a championship, and naturally once a team reaches the peaks of success, the fan base wants more.

Theo Epstein put it best.

"“To have disappointment in a year in which you reach the NLCS for the third straight year shows just how much the expectations have been raised around here and how high the bar is. It doesn’t make this year a bust. It means we didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal, but it is a great thing.”"

When something goes awry, the blame falls on the manager, fair or not.

Even with Maddon’s marks in the win column, and the banner, flying high above Wrigley, commemorating the title from a little over a year ago, and what all those before him failed to achieve, the critics were out, the honeymoon phase had worn off.

Some you just can’t please no matter what, and some were right to question.

The 2017 Cubs returned a majority of the 2016 roster, notable exceptions, of course, being Dexter Fowler, who’s presence atop the order was certainly missed.

Kyle Schwarber stepped in as the leadoff man to begin the year, which did not go as planned. Schwarber’s slash from the leadoff spot: .190/.312/.381/.693 in 147 AB.

Early critics might argue Maddon stayed with Schwarber too long from that spot. Bullpen management was a topic that dominated the year and presumably reared its ugly head at the most crucial time, that being in the playoffs.

Who to pick from?

Who do you go with when you can’t really trust anyone? Mike Montgomery in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS kind of tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it?

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Maddon did not exactly have the Dodgers bullpen to pick from as the team tried everyone to grind through inning after inning.

Carl Edwards Jr. was crucified for his mishaps along the way. At 26-years-old, Edwards completed his first full season and threw his most innings pitched. Maybe fatigue was an issue. Maddon wasn’t necessarily wrong to go to him.

The Nationals did dominate Edwards all year.

Over four regular-season appearances, Edwards allowed eight ER in three innings against the Nationals. He appeared in all five NLDS games against Washington, allowing six ER. As a team, Chicago allowed the second-most eighth-inning runs all season (91).

You can’t go to Wade Davis for multiple innings every game. Remember the grind of Game 5 alone?

Justin Wilson was acquired in July to be just the guy for this spot, and his shakiness down the stretch left much to be desired. The issues with pitching–starters allowed 102 first-inning runs–and resulting fallout with pitching coach Chris Bosio might lend credence to these struggles and any further issues.

Wish I could have it back

Maddon’s decision to bring John Lackey into the ninth inning of Game 2 against the Dodgers was as predictably risky as the Justin Turner game-winning home run proved. Before 2017, Lackey had only made three postseason relief appearances, and not since 2013.

In that spot, just go to your closer. Don’t even bother channeling your inner-Buck Showalter and say you were saving the closer for a lead.

Just don’t over-complicate the matter.

Win the inning by putting up a zero and then worry about who closes later, assuming you scored a run against the vaunted Dodgers bullpen and closer Kenley Jansen.

Odds weren’t great. At least if Davis fails you, you lose with your best.


Now that the dust has settled from the 2017 season, it’s easier to reflect on the whole body of work.

Next: Cubbies Crib staff casts their end-of-year award votes

Considering the context of the franchise, coming off a World Series championship, and how typical defending champions fare, the Cubs did have a good season. Based on the shortcomings and issues that arose out of 2017, it is now up to the front office to rectify the flaws that kept the team from the World Series.

The best leadership is in place, guided by manager Joe Maddon.