The game of baseball is evolving so rapidly, and we are seeing that to an extreme in the 2018 MLB season. Analytics are relied on more than they ever have been and it seems as if every single game is being managed as if it is Game 7 of the World Series. With that, we are seeing new and creative ways to manage games.
On June 13th the Milwaukee Brewers were hosting the Chicago Cubs in a series in which the two teams were battling each other for first place in the division. Milwaukee had a half game lead over Chicago going into the third game of the series. Milwaukee held a one run lead in the eighth inning when Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, pulled something we had never seen before. Maddon brought RHP Steve Cishek in at the start of the eighth inning to face the right handed batting Orlando Arcia. Arcia singled. Maddon turned to his bullpen again to bring in LHP Brian Duensing to face the left handed Eric Thames. The thing about this pitching change was that Cishek did not come out of the game. Cishek moved to LF so Maddon could bring him back to the mound to face the righty, Lorenzo Cain. It was now Duensing’s turn to take left field as another lefty was to follow Cain in the batting order (Christian Yelich). Once Cain was retired, Cishek was pulled and Duensing was brought back in and Willson Contreras took LF for the Cubs. All of this craziness worked as the Cubs escaped the inning allowing just one hit and holding the Brewers to a 1-0 lead.
The Philadelphia Phillies are under new management this year as Gape Kapler has taken the reigns on the bench. He has been a huge advocate for getting guys to get comfortable playing different positions so he can “get the best out of his 25 man roster”. Scott Kingery has played 7 positions this year for the Phillies as an example. Another thing Kapler has done is he has used quite a few position players on the mound when the game is a blowout. This isn’t a thing he is doing just for fun. He genuinely believes that position players should be able to pitch if needed. He has even had some position players throw bullpen sessions.
I really do enjoy seeing creativity in the game of baseball. I thought the way Joe Maddon handled the situation in Milwaukee was absolutely brilliant. If you think about it, Duensing and Cishek have been playing and watching this game their whole lives and are probably more than capable of handling a fly ball in case one were to be hit to them. In case they couldn’t, there is only an 11% chance that the ball would be hit to them. I think we will begin to see more in-game moves like this as the game continues to change.
As for the Philly situation, I am all for getting the most out of your 25 man roster. I have also seen many players who have bounced around between positions and had their development ruined (Bill Hall comes to mind). Then again, you have your Hernan Perez’s come along and be great at every position they play. In my opinion, the Phillies should be very careful how they handle Kingery as he is still a prospect. Moving a player around is something I feel you should do with an older player who is struggling to find out what he can bring to the table.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the Kapler trying to get his position players to be competent pitchers either. Last night, Greg Garcia of St. Louis came in to pitch while they were losing 11-2. He didn’t throw a pitch harder than 65 miles per hour and the Brewers hit the ball really hard off him. Also, none of the guys the Phillies have used this year have come into the game and been effective. With how heavily the game has been relying on power arms coming out of the bullpen, I don’t see how this can be a good idea for the Phillies going forward.