Maddon Makes Moves | The Process Report

Maddon Makes Moves

So much of what happens on a baseball diamond can be measured with tangible evidence in the form of statistics. Meanwhile, even the most hardened followers of sabermetrics will admit to human portion the game that is unquantifable. That part of the game cannot be dismissed, but because it can not be properly evaluated, many do not feel comfortable citing its impact.

Joe Maddon made a few curious moves late in Wednesday’s victory over the Red Sox. I’m not sure what impact they will have on the players involved – if at all. I can, however, understand the process.

Maddon’s first move came in the seventh inning when he decided he had seen enough from Jeremy Hellickson despite the right-hander needing just 88 pitches to complete six frames. Hellickson could have pitched the bottom of the seventh, but with a fresh bullpen and a four-run lead, Maddon opted for the soft landing.

As even tempered of a pitcher as you will ever see on the mound, Hellickson has had several meltdowns this season. The most recent coming less than a week ago when he allowed eight runs in a single inning against the Royals. Hellickson has also blown several leads. With that in mind, it makes sense that Maddon – with available resources – try getting him out on a positive. From his post-game comment, it seems much appreciated by the player. “It was nice to actually finish a game on a good note” said Hellickson.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Maddon removed right-fielder Wil Myers in favor of defensive replacement Sam Fuld. As far as baseball decisions go, there is nothing wrong here. Myers batted in the top of the ninth, and with a 6-2 lead, Maddon is not thinking about the what-ifs of extra innings. Fuld is also a superior defender to Myers.

However, Maddon’s answer to the question of why make the move might not sit well with some. Fuld is a Northeast native. Maddon said he would not feel right without letting him play in front of what equates to a home crowd. Had Maddon put in a lesser player for the same reason – or done so in a tie ballgame – then there is an issue. However, putting in a better defender, and getting the added bonus of allowing him the chance to play in front of friends and family for an inning is a non-issue. Also getting Myers off his feet a little early after playing three games in less than two days does not hurt.

Maddon’s final move is also a non-issue despite the reaction of some. With two outs in the ninth inning, the Rays’ skipper removed Jamey Wright – who had earned two quick outs – in favor of Fernando Rodney. Wright had not pitched since Friday, so seeing live action was an accomplished goal. The same goal was set for Rodney who had not entered a game since Saturday. For a pitcher that has struggled with control and command, that is about as long as you want him to go without throwing with a strike zone.

One might say if Maddon wanted to give Rodney work than let him start the inning. But that would leave nothing on the bone for Wright, and perhaps, leave too much for Rodney to chew through. If Rodney ran into trouble, and his pitch count been elevated, his availability for tomorrow’s game would come in question. And perhaps more importantly – and mentioned by Maddon after the game – it allowed Rodney a chance to walk off the mound after recording the final out of a win; a feeling that has eluded him at times this season

I would have not written this post four years ago. Maybe not even two years ago. But as I have matured as an observer, I can appreciate Maddon addressing areas of the game that I know exist even though I can not see or quantify as long as they do not negatively impact the team’s chances of winning and I do not see a case for that to be made here.



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