Should Joe Maddon have removed Kyle Hendricks when he did during the Chicago Cubs’ matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday afternoon?
I must preface this post by mentioning how I am a big fan of Joe Maddon as manager of the Chicago Cubs.
Maddon has received more criticism from Cubs fans than he deserves, especially in 2018. Fans constantly fuss about the how he changes the Cubs’ lineup daily, even though this has been the team’s recipe for success since Maddon arrived in Chicago.
Sunday, Maddon once again changed the team’s lineup, putting Javier Báez in the leadoff spot for the second time this season. For the record, Sunday’s lineup was the Cubs’ 41st different combination this season, but I digress.
Pulling Hendricks too soon
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I have no reason to question why Maddon changes the lineup almost daily. Truly, I question why Cubs fans are on his back for it so often. One question that I do have is why he pulled Kyle Hendricks from the game when he did on Sunday.
Hendricks threw 87 pitches in five innings, surrendering just one run on three hits and two walks. He surely had another inning in him, at the least. Instead, Maddon replaced him with pinch hitter Tommy La Stella in the bottom of the fifth inning.
In all honesty, giving La Stella a chance was not a bad idea. The Cubs trailed 1-0 and had runners on first and second with no one out. La Stella entered Sunday hitting .387 as a pinch hitter. One would expect La Stella to deliver more often than not.
Move does not pay off
Of course, he did not deliver, instead grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. Báez struck out afterward, ending the Cubs’ best threat of the day.
Pulling Hendricks backfired because La Stella did not deliver. It backfired even more when Brian Duensing got just one out in the sixth inning, ultimately surrendering four earned runs.
There is no telling how Hendricks would have fared had he stayed in the game. For all anyone knows, he might have given up four runs; he also might have given up no runs, a strong possibility for how good he looked on the mound.
Did it even matter?
In the end, pulling Hendricks “early” did not matter too much, as the Cubs scored just one run in a 7-1 loss. Still, Maddon’s decision is questionable, especially considering what he said before the game. From Chicago Tribune:
"“Asked to name the areas in which he’d like to see his team improve, the manager replied: ‘(Hitting with) runners in scoring position. And I’d like to see our starters nail down more innings. I think we’re capable of both.'”"
Well, the Cubs hit 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position Sunday and Hendricks pitched just five innings. At least there’s always tomorrow, Joe.