- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon calls it “outcome bias.” It’s when you second-guess a move after something negative happens; it doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong move. Of course, it doesn’t mean it was the right one either.
Maddon loves barroom debates and there’s almost none better when it comes to baseball than whether a starting pitcher should stay in or come out of a game. Tsuyoshi Wada had thrown 83 pitches through 5 1/3 innings while giving up one run in the Cubs’ game with the Washington Nationals on Monday. Then he was pulled.
There were none on and one out in the sixth inning after Wada had just experienced two stressful frames in innings four and five. But he had gotten out of both jams with no damage. He started out the sixth by getting Bryce Harper on a popup, but his day was done despite navigating through a good order with the wind blowing straight out. It was arguably the best hitting day of the season at Wrigley Field.
“It’s based on their batting order,” Maddon said of pulling Wada. “I like how it set up for us a lot.”
Was pulling Wada the right move? Wada’s numbers take a big dip when he goes through the order a second and third time, yet he was four batters into his third go-round and the Nationals had scored just one run -- a leadoff homer by Denard Span about 79 pitches earlier.
“I wanted him to pitch to the lefty, Harper, one more time,” Maddon explained. “Then I really liked how we had it stacked after that. But one pitch, that’s how this game is played sometimes.”
There are pros and cons to each side of the argument. Wada undoubtedly could have been tiring, making just his second start of the season, but at that point he was a known commodity -- meaning he was pitching well -- while a reliever might be fresh but still would be a risk in turns of his command.
Plus, Wada had navigated those windy conditions, while Grimm was just getting his feet wet when Ramos homered. We know anything can happen in baseball, but this is about risk versus reward and maxing out your hand. Did Maddon do that? He was asked if Wada will be extended to 90 or 100 pitches after throwing just 69 and then 83 in his first two outings this season.
“It just depends,” Maddon responded. “It’s not a 100-pitch exercise.”
Maddon’s gut is getting a workout these first two months. It happened again on Monday.
The Wada debate would be moot if the Cubs had scored a few more runs. They haven’t addressed it yet, but they might need to look at their day and night splits two months into the season. What looked like a coincidence three weeks into the year now looks like a trend.
After completing their 20th day game of the year on Monday, the Cubs are averaging 3.25 runs per contest. That jumps to 4.88 per game at night (25 games). Of course, those raw numbers don’t take into account the opposing starting pitcher or plenty of other variables, but there might be something to the narrative.
Before the game, Maddon lamented that the Cubs had to play a day game in Arizona on Sunday -- they scored just three runs -- followed by a day game in Chicago on Monday. Their last day game before that was a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates a week ago Sunday. And remember, their average would be a lot worse if not for an 11-run performance on Friday against the Pirates. Otherwise, it’s been tough finding runs in day games.
“I think we knew today it [the wind] would be blowing like that so maybe [we were] too amped up for the wind,” Kris Bryant said after providing the lone run on Monday with a homer. “It was good conditions to hit, but their pitchers, you have to tip your cap. They did a good job and kept us off balance.”
And the game was played during the day with a tired team at the plate. The Cubs are hitting .210 with a .262 on-base percentage in day games and .292/.340 at night. That’s a drastic difference -- and one they might need to address with their team soon.
Joe Maddon says he likes debates about baseball, and his quick hooks with Cubs starting pitchers have provided plenty of fodder.