Chicago Cubs: Are matchups the sole determining factor in lineup construction?
The positives of the pre-set lineup are fairly obvious, yet hard to quantify in terms of effect and/or outcome. Obviously, players know who is playing ahead of time, Maddon can set his lineups well in advance for rest purposes, the Cubs can play matchups more efficiently, and there isn’t a sense of “knee-jerk reactions” (both positively or negatively) from the manager.
Knowing that you’re playing ahead of time allows you to prepare accordingly, regardless of job or situation. Most people enjoy that in every job. Knowing where and when you’ll be used (or at least from the start) gives you time to reflect and prepare for the task ahead. No one likes to show up thinking they’re going to play only to find out they’re on the bench. Granted, players were informed the night before the game in previous years of the next day’s lineup, but this just goes a bit farther than that in terms of preparation.
Maddon has long been a proponent of rest for his guys, especially veterans like Zobrist. In setting up a lineup for an entire series, he’s able to plan out exactly when and where guys are going to get rest and he can then set up two consecutive days off in concert with scheduled off days.
With probable pitchers usually known heading into most series, the matchups that the Cubs and Maddon love to use also can be set up and utilized before the series, allowing the “geeks” (as Maddon loves to call them) to work their magic.
The knee-jerk reaction bit is something that may have ruffled feathers both ways for players. After a huge game, players may have been a bit miffed or annoyed to find out that they would not be in the lineup the next day (this seemed to happen a few times last season and earlier this season with Kyle Schwarber, when he found himself on the bench after a home run the day before).
With the pre-set series lineups, there may be some annoyance, but its curbed by awareness and communication. The other side of the coin- players who may have felt they were benched because of a bad game- can be squashed as well because the lineups are set without thought for how well or how poorly a player performed in an individual game.