Between injuries, pitching matchups, days off and minor league call-ups, baseball managers have to get creative with their batting order. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, just part of the game.
But if you’ve watched the Chicago Cubs this season, you may be wondering if Joe Maddon is a little more inconsistent than normal.
Not inconsistent in the bad kind of way; more in the “it’s never the same” kind of way.
Well, that’s because the Cubs lineup is never the same.
In 38 games this season, Maddon has trotted out 28 different batting orders (not accounting for the pitchers spot because the Cubs play in the National League). Ironically, the pitcher’s spot – 8th in Joe Maddon’s world – is the only constant in any lineup used this season.
Another constant is Dexter Fowler, who has led off 35 of the 38 games. His only three anomalies were two routine days off, and a Maddon experiment that saw him hit 2nd behind Chris Coghlan.
Two spots down, Anthony Rizzo has been the focal point of the Cubs’ lineup in the ever-important 3 hole. Meanwhile, rookie sensation Addison Russell is clearly Maddon’s man for the 9th spot, starting there 24 of the 26 games he’s been up.
The top of the order is quite simple, as it’s all but cemented in stone that 1-2-3 will go Fowler-Bryant-Rizzo vs. a righty pitcher and Fowler-Rizzo-Bryant vs. a lefty.
So, with a relatively stable top of the order, how the hell has Joe Maddon filled out his lineup card 28 different ways in only 38 games?
Enter the 6th and 7th spots in the order, where Maddon has already used 19 different players thus far.
Granted, when Jon Lester pitches, David Ross is usually hitting 7th. That alone causes Maddon to reconfigure his lineups every fifth day.
But up until recently, the Cubs went through a stretch of 27 games where the same player batted 7th on back-to-back days just twice.
Seeing that a huge upside hitter like Jorge Soler has hit in six different slots in the batting order, it’s no surprise that Maddon hasn’t used a single lineup more than four times this season. If you weren’t sure, that’s not a lot.
It’s pretty obvious that Joe Maddon isn’t afraid to be creative – and that he has plenty of confidence in every player in the dugout.
Which also means the Cubs are in good shape when injuries and demotions come around like they did earlier in the season.
After Opening Day third baseman Mike Olt fractured his forearm, the team called up Russell and Maddon quickly found his “second leadoff man” for the bottom of the order. Opening Day starter Tommy La Stella also went to the DL, and Arismendy Alcantara was sent back to Triple-A Iowa after starting seven games.
The Cubs are very talented, but they’re also very young. Growing pains are going to happen at the plate. Players may not be comfortable hitting at certain places in the order, but Maddon’s savvy and willingness to test out various combinations is perfect for molding young and inconsistent hitters. More than anything, he’s always looking for ways to maximize his batting order.
So if you’ve found yourself noticing the Cubs seem to literally have a different lineup every single day, you’re right.
But don’t worry, that guy with the cool glasses standing on the dugout steps knows what he’s doing.
(Featured Image courtesy of CubsJoeMadd)