Chemistry Watch: The Giants and Marlins claim to have it

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Ah, team chemistry. The ultimate example of post hoc ergo propter hoc in baseball. We always credit winning teams with having it after the fact and, in most cases, attribute the actual winning to the chemistry. And if you try to fight against that you get a million people saying, in effect, “scoreboard!”

With that in mind, Brandon Belt had this to say when asked about all the moves the Dodgers made in the offseason:

When Belt was asked about the free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers, he replied, to a thunderous ovation, “All I can say is, you can’t buy chemistry.” That statement will be sure to end up on a few blue bulletin boards.

Hey, if you want to say that the Giants won two of the past three World Series because of team chemistry as opposed to good pitching, timely hitting and a roster full of talented ballplayers that’s your prerogative. I’m eager to see you show me exactly what it was about those teams that evidences good chemistry that was not a product of, as opposed to a cause of, winning. But you can credit chemistry all you want.

But maybe we don’t need that. Maybe we’ll have an actual example of a team with great chemistry that is not attributable to winning: the Miami Marlins, who Joe Capozzi writes are all about character and chemistry and all of that stuff going forward. And character matters! Just ask coach Tino Martinez:

Although the 2013 Marlins are young and inexperienced, new hitting coach Tino Martinez said he sees parallels with the New York Yankees team he played on that won the 1996 World Series.

“We didn’t have a lot of superstars. We had a young Derek Jeter, a young Bernie Williams, a young Andy Pettitte. We had a great group of guys who worked hard every day,” Martinez said.

Sure. That was all about attitude. It had nothing to do with the fact that the team had no less than three first ballot Hall of Famers on it and multiple other players who either will be in the Hall of Fame or who will stay on Hall of Fame ballots for many years.

Anyway: let’s watch the Marlins’ chemistry all year and see if it maintains on a 90+ loss team. And, if for some reason the Giants don’t make the playoffs this year, let’s make a point to see when, exactly, the chemistry left them.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.