Joe Maddon and The Process Versus Results | The Process Report

Joe Maddon and The Process Versus Results

On Saturday afternoon, the results beat the process. It happens. But the process earned a split on Sunday.

Holding a 5-3 lead over the Yankees in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game Rays’ manager Joe Maddon called upon Joel Peralta to pitch. The right-hander does most of his work in the eighth inning, but Maddon picked him because the meat of the Yankees’ order: Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, and Lyle Overbay were due up. All of them left-handed batters.

Maddon could have gone the traditional route and used left-hander Jake McGee against the trio of lefties. However, since joining the Rays in 2011, Peralta owns the lowest on-base percentage (.225) and the second lowest average (.165) against left-handed batters among all qualified relievers.

Peralta walked Cano before allowi a double to Overbay sandwiched around a Hafner fly out. He walked another left-handed batter (Zolio Almonte) to load the bases with one out. Clearly without his best stuff, Maddon lifted Peralta. With the bases loaded and three right-handed batters (Jayson Nix, David Adams, Chris Stewart) due, sinkerballer Jamey Wright seemed like a logical choice. He was not the one selected.

Instead, Maddon picked McGee, the lefty. Much like Peralta, McGee has unconventional splits. Despite being a southpaw, he is in the top three of average, on-base, and slugging percentage against right-handed batters among all relievers with at least 80 innings pitched since the beginning of 2012.

McGee struck out Nix to begin his outing. He then walked in a run with a free pass to Adams. Right-handed, pinch-hitter Vernon Wells was called to hit for Stewart. The veteran outfielder crushed a bases-clearing double to bust the game open and send the Rays into last place in the American League East.

As the story goes, Maddon—with a plate of chips and salsa pulled up a seat next to McGee after the game. He moved on to Peralta soon after. Nobody outside of the skipper and his players knows exactly what was said, but one can assume it some sort of was positive reinforcement.

On Sunday, Maddon put that positive reinforcement in motion. Following six strong innings from Chris Archer, Jake McGee was summoned from the pen to protect a two-run lead. Who would he face first? David Adams, the man he walked with the bases loaded a day before. McGee retired the right-hander on strikes and now faced Vernon Wells, who was pinch-hitting for Stewart once again. McGee induced a flyout off the bat of Wells before allowing a two-out single to lefty Brett Gardner. He retired another left-hander—Ichiro—to end the frame.

With Suzuki ending the seventh inning, the Yankees sent their 3-4-5 hitters (Cano, Hafner, Overbay) to the plate in the eighth. Just like he did on Saturday, Maddon asked Joel Peralta to cut through the heart of the order. After battling with control the day before, Peralta attacked with his low-90s fastball, generating three fly-ball outs in the span of 11 pitches.  Fernando Rodney slammed the door in the ninth inning and the Rays salvaged a split in New York.

It would have been easy for Maddon to question his own decisions. It would have also been easy to opt for customary usage on Sunday after unconventional—at least on the surface—wisdom failed the day before. But Maddon knows easy and customary are not always the best process. And the Rays are a better team because of that.

Data & images courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.

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