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Series Preview # 49: D-backs vs Cubs

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Can D-backs sweep? Crazier things have happened.

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Torey Lovullo notices when it goes right!
Torey Lovullo notices when it goes right!
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The D-backs have had more than their share of great managers!

One manager who led the underdog expansion-team D-backs to World Series win in 2001: Bob Brenly.

Two D-back personnel who were previously Managers of the Year: Tony La Russa (4th time 2002), and Ron Gardenhire (2010).

Three D-back Managers of the Year: Bob Melvin (2007), Kirk Gibson (2011), and Torey Lovullo (2017).

Bonus points: a D-back player who went on to become Manager of the Year for another team: Matt Williams (2014).

What does a great manager do?

Great managers communicate and implement the team culture and philosophies. They build a foundation that carries the team to success for years. Attributes like building trust, communicating, and having faith in your players can make a difference.

Great managers attract great players. One Example is Ben Zobrist. The Mets and the Giants offered him 4 years, $60 million. Instead, he accepted an offer that was $4 Million less to play for manager Joe Maddon.

Great managers put each player is a situation to succeed. Torey Lovullo takes the next step. “I feel like I have to monitor things [expression of emotions] on a certain level, but to have them go out there with the freedom and the ability to perform with a mind that is empty with no barriers is going to make them be at their best every single day.

On an everyday level, great coaches make decisions that contribute to success. Lineups, pinch hitting, deciding when to pull each pitcher and who to send in.

The D-backs are being managed well!

Sometimes, despite players outperforming, they get beat. Maybe they didn’t have the right stuff. Maybe they had the right stuff, but the other teams had more of the right stuff. Getting beat can happen with great managers.

Baseball is hard. I discovered a delightfully funny show called, “The Good Place.” It’s a fictional story about the afterlife. For me, one take-away was that some problematic situations make it hard to make good decisions. The game of baseball can be like that! Players and managers make hard decisions knowing that the results will not always be good. “Even when things are going according to plan for Torey Lovullo, several relievers have managed to struggle.” -- Jeff Wiser

The D-backs managers have positive attitudes. I appreciate that! Positive attitudes can have unexpected positive consequences – although consequences are not always immediate.

  • We are going to win, and I want us to expect to win.” Torey Lovullo interview on Doug & Wolf Show, 27 September 2017
  • “This team can get hot, and in a week we could be having a totally different conversation.” – Torey Lovullo
  • “We’re two-and-a-half games out of first place. Sign me up. I would take that every day of the week. It could be worse.” – Torey Lovullo
  • “I believe in that group [the bullpen], like I believe in that whole team and they’re gonna go out and get some really big outs for us down the stretch,” –Tory Lovullo
  • “All the chips are out on the table right now. We’re pushing them in.” – Tory Lovullo
  • “Until there’s a little ‘e’ next to our name, we’re going to fight and claw and scratch and do everything we can on a daily basis to win as many games as we possibly can. Crazier things have happened…” -- Tory Lovullo
  • “Watching this team on the inside and watching them stay together and watching them day after day get after it and play hard, it gives you a lot of confidence on what the potential might be. But the potential doesn’t get you in the playoffs.” -- Mike Hazen

Think about what could go right. “It can positively change perceptions (become aware of opportunities), emotions (from sad/anger to good energy), and actions (to tip the scales). Even if the D-backs don’t make it to the playoffs, by continuing to think about what could go right, they will avoid regrets that maybe they could have done better.” — Makakilo, AZ SnakePit Roundtable, 9 September 2018.

Torey Lovullo is a great manager. The D-backs could go on a winning streak and make the playoffs. It’s not likely, but as he said, “Crazier things have happened.”

In this series, Torey Lovullo faces off with Joe Maddon, the Cubs Manager. Let’s talk about Joe Maddon.

Rays Manager 2006 to 2014. In 2008, he led the Rays to their first appearance in the World Series, and was voted AL manager of the year. In 2011, he was voted AL manager of the year for a second time.

Cubs Manager 2015 to 2018. In 2016, the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years! Wasn’t 2016 his best season as a Cub manager? Perhaps not. Joe Maddon said 2015, when he was voted NL manager of the year, was his best season. “But it’s a telling thing about the state of the organization that we can debate about which of the last four seasons is the best one during a Cubs manager’s tenure.” – Joe Greenburg, writer for The Athletic

Success leaves clues. Maddon left clues – they are called Maddonisms. Chris Chavez, writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote about them, including the following:

  • Try not to suck, especially when the underdog.
  • Embrace the target, especially when the favorite.
  • Respect 90: run hard for 90 feet.
  • Do Simple Better. Keep day-to-day tasks simple and do them better.
  • The Process is Fearless. “For me, it’s really about staying in the moment and not worrying about the outcome of the game…” -- Maddon
  • Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure. “Pressure is an indicator you are in the right place”—Maddon. When pressure is high, balance it with more fun.
  • You have to have a little bit of crazy to be successful. Often, the same applies to being a writer for the AZ SnakePit!

Who will pitch in this series?

Monday. Kyle Hendricks (3.71 ERA, 7.5 SO/9, 2.1 BB/9) vs Patrick Corbin (3.05 ERA, 11.1 SO/9, 2.0 BB/9)

Patrick Corbin is a better starting pitcher than Kyle Hendricks.

  • Corbin pitched at least 6 innings in 77% of his starts (vs 50%).
  • Corbin allowed 2 or less runs in 63% of his starts (vs 53%).
  • Corbin controlled the zone better (SO/W of 5.5 vs 3.6).

Advantage D-backs.

Tuesday. Mike Montgomery (3.85 ERA, 6.0 SO/9, 3.0 BB/9) vs TBA.

Mike Montgomery moved from the bullpen to the rotation on 28 May. Clay Buchholz is on the DL. Who will start this game?

  • As a starter, Mike Montgomery pitched at least 6 innings in 44% of his starts.
  • As a starter, Mike Montgomery allowed 2 or less runs in 63% of his starts.
  • As a starter, Mike Montgomery controlled the zone with SO/W of 2.2.

Advantage Cubs.

Wednesday. Cole Hamels (1.42 ERA, 8.5 SO/9, 3.0 BB/9) vs Robbie Ray (4.18 ERA, 11.8 SO/9, 4.9 BB/9)

On 27 July, the Rangers traded Cole Hamels with cash to the Cubs in return for an unknown relief pitcher and a minors player to be named. The Cubs won that trade because after the trade Hamels results blossomed. The Cubs might have fixed his pitching technique because his fastball velocity increased and his off-speed pitches became elite.

Let’s compare these two starters in August and September.

  • Hamels pitched at least 5 innings in 100% of his starts (vs 88%).
  • Hamels allowed 2 or less runs in 89% of his starts (vs 88%).
  • Hamels controlled the zone better (SO/W of 2.9 vs 2.1 ).

Advantage Cubs.