The Art of Second Guessing

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Today’s game featuring the Chicago Cubs and the Miami Marlins has a lot of people talking and questioning Manager Dale Sveum’s managerial decisions. Quite understandable considering how things unraveled at the end of the game, but there are always things to consider when trying to figure out who to blame, and how much blame each person deserves.

Whenever anything bad takes place in a ball game, fans are always second guessing the managers decisions saying he should have done this, or left his pitcher in for that. But the bottom line is that making that particular decision, making a different one, or not making one at all does not guarantee success or the lack of failure. Because the situation played out before our eyes, there is no way to ever know what would have happened if a different move was made. In all honesty things could have gone either way.

The most frustrating thing about all the second guessers, is that they seem so positive that the move they would have done would have worked out perfectly. You, as a second guesser, should never say that if the manager had made this move or that move because this would have happened. The proper thing to say would be “if the manager had made this move this might have happened”. Because there is no way of knowing if your move would have worked out any better.

Case in point was pinch hitting Scott Hairston for Nate Schierholtz late in the game. Some fans wonder why this move was made, thinking that allowing Schierholtz to hit would have allowed for a better outcome. There is always a chance that not making the pinch hitting move would have worked out, but history tells a different story. Schierholtz historically has been unable to hit left handed pitching, while Hairston has a tendency of feasting of left handers. Even though this season Hairston has been a disappointment, the averages usually tend to get back to their historical norm. If Schierholtz was left in and made an easy out, fans would be questioning not pinch hitting for him.

Then we have some of the debacle that took place today, specifically pitching to Giancarlo Stanton, and then the use of Kameron Loe. Even though we are only fans (like you are) allow me to try and help work through some of these decisions.

Because Stanton single-handedly beat the Cubs today, fans want to know why he was even pitched to at all. Very easy to understand why fans want to know this, as he is the best and only real hitter the Marlins have on their roster this year.

Because he has been struggling all year, I can see why the Cubs initially pitched to him. Get the man out and keep going through the lineup. Carlos Villanueva has been pitching out of his ass this year, so you let him face Stanton and see if he can get him out. No harm in that really, considering if you do walk him each time, you still have to face the other guys in the lineup. Even though those hitters are bad, sooner or later they are going to start to collect hits, and will eventually knock in runs. Even though the odds are in your favor walking him each time he steps to the plate, if there is no one on base there is very little harm in pitching to him at all.

Now, the issue with Loe, that is the damaging one. Unfortunately, with today’s game there was little choice as far as who to use. All of the top relievers had been used the past few days. Carlos Marmol, James Russell, even Shawn Camp and Kevin Gregg have been used a lot these past few games, and likely needed a day off.

When you add to the problem that the next time the Cubs have a day off (thanks to the make-up game with the Texas Rangers) is not until May 9, you need to give your key relievers days off when you can. Unfortunately that came in a game the Cubs had a chance to sweep a series. With the Cubs already trailing, Loe was the first man out of the pen. You were down to your lesser pitchers in the pen, the ones you never really want to see get any game action. But sooner or later, especially with as much use as the pen has been getting (don’t forget there have been two extra inning games recently) you are going to have to use the guys you would rather forget about.

The lack luster offense does very little to help the Cubs bullpen either, no matter if you are talking about your better bullpen guys or the scrubs, because no matter how good or bad you are, the strain of always needing to protect a one run lead, or one run deficit wears on you. The better you are, the less the strain will wear on you, but for those marginal talents that every bullpen has tends to buckle under the pressure. That also likely lends a powerful hand to why the Cubs have such a hard time finding a good closer.

Because the Cubs are not a very good ball team, the questions and second guessing will come frequently There will always be games for every team where they are won or lost based on decisions. Sometimes the decision looks crazy and fails, and the other time the same crazy decision will work out. But, don’t forget the lack of making a change, or making a different move does not guarantee that the outcome would not have been different, and the game would not have been lost.

With a bad team, as the Cubs are (despite how good they have looked this series in Miami) all you are trying to do is pull some strings and hope the vibration turns out the way you envisioned. Sometimes things will work out, but in the game of baseball when the law of averages is weighted heavily against you on the offensive side of the ball, chances are that no matter what move you make will fail.

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