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Here is an e-mail exchange I had with Beachwood grand poobah Steve Rhodes on Labor Day. It's just another homage to the great and powerful Joe Maddon.
Rhodes: Before the season, I was really eager to see Joe Maddon's lineups. Then I was befuddled. Then amazed. Then perturbed. Then amused. Then baffled. I'm giving up. Start Kris Bryant at catcher if you want, Joe. It doesn't seem to matter.
Gangler: I know. They make no sense. Except they are brilliant. They make it no big deal to put guys in the correct position once every four games. And what is the correct position? Who really knows. But the players don't feel like they did anything wrong or feel slighted to be moved around either in the field or in the lineup. It breaks the conventional wisdom of your No. 3 hitter is your best hitter and your 4th hitter is the biggest power guy. So then when someone is scuffling you just drop him a bit and it's not like a demotion or anything. Plus it's almost like using small sample size to benefit you. And you can double switch and pinch hit at the top of the lineup and not just the bottom to get a good matchup if it presents itself. It's so weird. The only for-sure spots (90% of the time) are leadoff and 9th.
Rhodes: That is exactly right - and I hadn't thought before about how guys don't get upset getting moved around because everyone gets moved around every day. Remember the dramas surrounding moving Soriano and Sosa and even Castro back in the day or Corey Patterson? None of that. Sure, part of it is that they are young. But I bet in 10 years Rizzo and Bryant won't care either.
And I'm sure it's all based on analytics and matchups, of course. It just looks random to us. I think what he does is decide which eight guys he wants in the batting order on a given day against a given pitcher and so on, and then figures out where to play them to fit them in. Just my guess.
It sure is at times a pretty fragile OF defense, but they hit enough homers to compensate. Different ways to win - the Twins are just getting their OF of the future together right now with Rosario, Buxton and Hicks. That will be their OF next year. Defensively, no ball will drop in. They are fast and awesome. But it's not clear they will be able to hit. The Cubs can put Schwarber and Bryant in the same OF and still win. It's just really interesting to me. And why I think this might be Joe's greatest managing job . . . I don't know enough to say about each year in TB, but doing this here with this franchise, just strikes me as the greatest managing job of his career . . . and I'm guessing he'll go down as greatest Cubs manager ever, right?
Gangler: The greatest Cub manager of all time will be the guy that is there when they win the World Series. But Joe is on his way already.
Rhodes: Of course, I should have thought of that. True. So maybe the next guy! #billygoat
The Week In Review: The Cubs went 5-2 for the week. They lost two of three to the Reds and then ripped off four straight wins, sweeping the D-Backs and taking the first game of a 3-game series with the Cardinals. And it was a Dan Haren start against the Cards that they won; it should probably be worth two wins.
The Week In Preview: The Boys in Blue have two more with the Cards and then head to the City of Brotherly Love for four with the Phils. Ideally they should knock a 4-spot off the magic number (now at 18) by themselves by week's end.
The Second Basemen Report: Seven games this week and three different second sackers. Javy Baez and Starlin Castro each got three starts, with Tommy La Stella getting the other one. The three-headed monster approach worked well this week. Everyone hit while they were in there. Seems like a platoon (tritoon?) of some sort, or a match-up thing, or a hybrid "Plamchup"? But Big Poppa Joe is Midas these days.
In former Cubs second basemen news, Ryne Sandberg last played second base for the Cubs in 1997. He had a falling out with the team a while back and then was the manager of the Phillies for a bit, but then resigned earlier this season. The news these days is that Ryne met with current management this week. My guess is that the fanboy in Tom Ricketts can't help himself but to try to get Ryno back into the fold somehow. Maybe as some kind of walking statue? He wasn't ever really missed.
Mad(don) Scientist: We talked a bit about Big Poppa Joe in the open but I will add that the moving guys around is a good way to give them some rest here and there and let everyone contribute. Not to mention no one can tune out on a ballgame because anything can happen in any given game.
Wishing Upon A Starlin: Someone is batting .444 for the month of September . . . sure, it's an odd plamchup deal, but Castro doesn't seem lost for the season and you had to think that a demotion like that could have possibly knocked him out mentally. Sure, he's still a butcher in the field, but his bat could possibly help down the stretch, or at worst make some other team think he's still decent enough to take him off the Cubs' hands next season.
Kubs Kalender: The Milwaukee Brewers changed their fan appreciation weekend because they knew an ass-load of Cub fans would come up for the last home weekend up there and ruin everything. They are probably right, but they didn't see this coming when the schedule came out? Still, this is pretty great.
Ameritrade Stock Pick of The Week: Shares of past Cubs futility traded higher this week. Thanks, Ryno.
Over/Under: The number of games Kyle Schwarber can miss before you should get a little antsy: +/- 2.5.
Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that magic numbers are cool.
* Touch 'em all: The Cub Factor archives.
* Know thy enemy: The White Sox Reports.
Marty Gangler is our man on the Cub. He welcomes your comments.