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Did Joe Maddon make the right call letting Aroldis Chapman bat for himself?


The situation: Closer Aroldis Chapman successfully saw the Cubs out of a jam in the seventh inning, getting the final two outs after relieving Carl Edwards, Jr. He then pitched a scoreless eighth, helping the Cubs cling to a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half of the eighth, the Cubs had a runner on second base and two outs and Chapman coming up to the plate to face right-handed reliever Cody Allen. As Miguel Montero had already pinch-hit and Willson Contreras was in the game as part of a double-switch, the hitters left on the bench were Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, and Albert Almora, Jr.

Looking to get one more inning out of his star closer, Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to let Chapman hit for himself. Chapman has taken exactly two regular season plate appearances in his seven-year career in the majors. One resulted in a strikeout, and one resulted in an RBI ground out against the Cubs when he was a Red last year. Not exactly the most experienced hitter but, hey, an RBI!

Maddon is balancing the potential for one more run versus getting three more outs. The Cubs’ win probability going into Chapman’s at-bat was about 87 percent according to FanGraphs. And, per Baseball Prospectus, the average team scored at least one run 27 percent of the time with a runner on third base and two outs during the 2016 regular season. Add in that the Cubs would have to do so against Cody Allen, one of the best relievers in the game, and the probability falls down quite a bit. Theoretically, even if the Cubs were to send up Mike Trout — the on-base percentage leader at .441 — he hits into an out more than half the time and doesn’t get a hit more than two-thirds of the time.

Even if the Cubs were to send up Schwarber, who has already shown himself to be no slouch at the plate despite returning quickly from a horrific knee injury, is it worth the downgrade from Chapman to Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon? No disrespect intended to either pitcher, but they are a level below Chapman when it comes to dominating hitters.

If it were a different situation, perhaps a runner on third base and one out, then pinch-hitting for Chapman makes more sense because the probability of scoring that run is much higher — over 67 percent, to be exact. An experienced hitter is better able to make a productive out as well, as opposed to feebly grounding out, popping out, or striking out. With two outs, Chapman and the pinch-hitter yield the same result most of the time.

As expected, Chapman wound up striking out to end the inning with the Cubs failing to score. And, as expected, Chapman worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to finalize the game in a 3-2 victory. Results-wise, Maddon punched the right buttons. But even if Chapman had blown the save, it still would have been the right call.

Astros’ Verlander to have elbow surgery, miss rest of season

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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner announced the news Saturday on his Instagram account in a 1½-minute video.

“In my simulated game a couple days ago, I felt something in my elbow, and after looking at my MRI and conversing with some of the best doctors in the world, we’ve determined that Tommy John surgery is my best option,” Verlander said.

He threw to hitters on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured in the team’s opener on July 24. He threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before throwing about 25 pitches to hitters in two simulated innings.

“I tried as hard as I could to come back and play this season,” Verlander said. “Unfortunately, my body just didn’t cooperate.”

Verlander has been on the injured list with a right forearm strain. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 2019.

“Obviously, this is not good news,” Verlander said. “However, I’m going to handle this the only way I know how. I’m optimistic. I’m going to put my head down, work hard, attack this rehab and hopefully, come out the other side better for it.

“I truly believe everything that everything happens for a reason, and although 2020 has sucked, hopefully, when this rehab process is all said and done, this will allow me to charge through the end of my career and be healthy as long as I want and pitch as long as I want and accomplish some of the goals that I want in my career.”


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