They say defense wins championships, and who’s to argue?
In baseball, though, it goes a step further.
Bullpens win championships.
Which is why the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman for the ninth inning. Which is why manager Joe Maddon might plays things differently with his pitching staff now that the postseason has begun.
“Our bullpen has been good because our starters have been so good,’’ Maddon said. “Now you get to this time of the year when you have to be somewhat less tolerant of the starting pitcher and get him out for the relief pitcher, you’re seeing that all over the place right now.’’
Indians manager Terry Francona went to left-hander Andrew Miller in the fifth inning of Cleveland’s victory over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS Thursday. It was high leverage situation that called for it. Granted, the Cubs rotation is deeper than Cleveland’s. But still.
“That has been our strength, the starting pitcher,’’ Maddon said before sending Jon Lester out to face the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS Friday night. “Jon Lester pitching deeply into games has been a strength. [Game 2 starter] Kyle [Hendricks], Jake [Arrieta], and Johnny Lackey have all been there deep into the game [but] yes, it’s all about the moment and things may have to change.’’
Because, as Maddon said, in a best-of-five that are the division series, you have five days to win three games to move on to the next round.
“So, yeah, you have to be less tolerant, you have to be in the moment, but you also have to be mindful of what got you here what is somewhat and really try to evaluate what’s going on right now, what is happening out here. “The guy that I’m going to bring in, do I know absolutely certain that’s going to be better than the guy that I’m taking out. It’s always the question.’’
For all the talk about lineups, and Maddon mixes and matches as much as any manager with a versatile, multidimensional roster, Maddon said the thing he worries about most on a daily basis is the bullpen.
“Lineup construction is relatively easy,’’ he said. “When it comes down to how you’re going to manipulate your bullpen nightly and who is well and who are you pushing too far and who can handle what kind of moment, what’s the best matchup for them. That’s the biggest concern on a daily basis.’’
In a conventional Cubs bullpen world, Pedro Strop is the seventh-inning guy and Hector Rondon the eighth-inning man. C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm are there, as well, Grimm showing a hot hand of late.
But “conventional roles, I’m not into it,’’ Maddon said.
“Your skills versus this group of hitters is much more important than whether it’s the seventh or eighth inning.’’