September 14, 2018

Prior to a few weeks ago, I never thought it wood happen again

In what's news to literally no one at this point, Dusty Baker absolutely abused Kerry Wood and (especially) Mark Prior down the stretch of the 2003 season. I mean, just look at this insanity:

While pitch counts hadn't gone completely mainstream as we were still in the heart of the These-Nerds-and-Their-Damn-Computers-Are-Ruining-the-Game Era, plenty of people were rightly outraged at the time. And thankfully, in the relatively short amount of time since, we have made so much progress that there is a zero percent chance of something like that ever happening again.

Ummm. Well...

Allow me to rephrase: There is a zero percent chance of a manager overworking two young starters like that again. But there is something similar happening right now, a mere 15 years later. Right here in Chicago, too. Because except for the future value of the assets involved, what Joe Maddon is doing to his bullpen is just as unconscionable as what Dusty Baker did to Wood and Prior in 2003. I mean, just look at this insanity:

Joe Maddon has pitched Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, and Justin Wilson six times each in the last eight games, spanning nine days. Or, if you prefer: Of the seven days the Cubs have actually played games, each has pitched on all but one of them. (Meanwhile, lazy bones Carl Edwards, Jr. has been off twice, the goldbricker. Twice!) This is simply not enough rest, and someone is going to get hurt.

Someone, that is, besides Pedro Strop.

I started writing this post before Strop's injury, which was a somewhat fluky thing not related to being an abused bullpen arm. In fact, Strop was among the fresher guys in the pen, because Joe has him as The Closer and the Cubs, sadly, haven't had many leads of late. At the same time, batting Strop in that situation—up 4-3, one out, bases loaded in the tenth, where the very limits of his withered pitcher legs unaccustomed to sprinting might potentially be *ahem* strained—was a result of Joe's compulsion, as he had already burned through the four other guys he trusts the most, with two of them (Cishek and Wilson) coming in to get just one out.

Yes, I know these games are important. Yesterday's win was huge, as was Tuesday's. But for more than a week now, Joe has been managing every day like it's Game 7 of the World Series. And it's not. (Nor, if we're being honest, is that where Joe does his best work.) Even the strongest, most durable arms can only take so much, and these guys need more rest. Poor Jesse Chavez has pitched 13 times in the last 20 games and hasn't had two consecutive days off since August 22-23; he'd have more downtime if he worked at an Amazon warehouse. And so while I generally like Joe as a manager, he needs to start using his main arms less often and letting them work for longer. In short, he has to start trusting them, or there's not going to be anyone left to trust come playoff time.

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