The Rundown: Hindsight is Plenty-Plenty, Split Mentality, Scherzer’s Status

Though it could also mean spotting a female deer, the hindsight being exercised in regard to Saturday’s Game 2 loss comes off more as staring straight at some creature’s unsavory posterior. Sorry to be tardy to the party on this one, but kind of a big thing came up between my consumption of the ballgame and my desire to dedicate words to the page.

Due to the timing of this particular take, I see no reason to rehash the logic — or lack thereof, if that’s what you prefer — in having Carl Edwards Jr. face Bryce Harper in the 8th inning. Edwards had looked sharp in the previous game, but had already given up a hit to lefty Adam Lind before striking out righty Trea Turner. Traditional baseball wisdom holds that you’d want to avoid another righty/lefty matchup with the dangerous Harper, who had posted a 1.087 OPS and a 173 wRC+, and who had hit 26 of 29 homers against right-handed pitchers this season.

Then again, Edwards had allowed a measly .437 OPS and .204 wOBA to lefties this season, including two of the six homers he’d given up. Splits work both ways, folks. At the same time, there’s the thought that going with a lefty theoretically nullifies Harper’s power, which was the biggest threat at that point. So that means a lefty would have been better, right?

Maybe Maddon should have gone with Mike Montgomery, who is pretty split-neutral and has given up a higher slugging percentage to lefties, to start the inning. Or maybe Brian Duensing, who has also allowed slightly higher wOBA and slugging numbers to lefties. The only real option would have been Wade Davis coming on to get six outs. Davis is a big-time reverse-split guy whose .493 OPS and .227 wOBA against lefties would have made sense.

Here’s the thing, though, there is no correct answer. We can do all the forward-thinking statistical analysis we want, but the fact of the matter is that the public narrative is always and only determined by the results. And not just in terms of Saturday’s loss, but those Maddon’s gotten in the past. It was basically predetermined that any failure by Cubs pitching would have been chalked up to managerial incompetence.

Put any other pitcher in Edwards’ spot and a game-tying home run would have yielded the exact same questions and carbon-copy criticism of Maddon’s methods. The opposite is true for the success of any of the pitchers, including Edwards. But that’s the thing, there was no success.

The other issue at hand here is that we’re talking about Bryce Freaking Harper, one of the best players in the game. Every once in a while even the best pitchers hang curveballs. When they do, the best hitters hit them a long way. It sucked, but I can find no real need to further comb through what would/could/should have been.

Glass half full

Had I told you heading into the first two games in Washington that the Cubs would be going home with a split, you’d probably have been pleased. Had the Cubs lost Game 1 and then blasted two late home runs to come back and even the series in Game 2, you’d have been very pleased. Funny how timing changes perception, huh?

The Cubs aren’t fazed, though, and they open the Wrigley portion of the series with all the confidence in the world. That despite facing the legend of Max Scherzer, which may actually be more powerful than the man himself. A lot is riding on the balky hamstring that prevented the Cy Young candidate from throwing a bullpen session until Friday, though he says he’s good to go and isn’t going to be limited.

Scherzer targeting the century mark

“I’m very confident as soon as I toe the rubber that, hey, I’m going to be good on pitch one,” Scherzer told reporters Sunday. “It’s how long can I go without re-injuring this. That’s where we’ve done everything we can to make sure that I can throw 100 pitches and not have this happen.”

Perhaps as important as the physical aspect of Scherzer’s performance will be the mental game, but maybe not in terms of handling the hostile crowd. If he’s going out there with even the slightest hint of trepidation as to how that leg is going to react, the Cubs will be able to take advantage.

More news and notes

  • There’s been growing speculation that Tommy La Stella could lead off at second base for the Cubs this afternoon. Neither Javy Baez nor Ben Zobrist has looked particularly great at the plate through the first two games, and La Stella’s superior contact rate and ability to handle velocity could really set the tone.
  • Greg Bird took Andrew Miller deep Sunday night for the only run of the game, keeping the Yankees alive in the series. That’s pretty crazy, right, someone homering against Miller in the playoffs? I mean, that’s got to be an impossible feat or something. Seriously, when’s the last time anyone did that? Actually, I can recall the last two times it happened. Bird doing so as a lefty is kind of a big deal though.
  • It’s going to be kind of a big day in Chicago, with Game 3 preceding Mitchapalooze on Monday Night Football.
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