JOE MADDON: That's just typically how this thing plays out where there's all the prognostication where you're attempting to figure out in advance what something's going to look like. So you look from last year, and it's legitimate. It's a legitimate thought based on where the Cubs had been last, where we are right now. The fact that we're going to rely on so many young players to get us over the hump. I get it. I totally get it. It makes all the sense in the world.
But when we took the job, when I took the job last fall, I was able to start looking at some of these guys in more earnest detail. Then you look at it, and man, this could be pretty good rather quickly. But also having, and again, getting Jon there, Jon Lester really solidified it, and nobody knew that Jake was going to be this good this year.
But, yeah, I can understand why everybody would have thought it was going to take a little while longer just from the perspective of being a scout. Our guys make up the accountability factor with our young guys, and in fact they're very skillful, and they're blended. Our guys are blended so well with veterans, and I think that's the part that's really not spoken about enough. I really have so much faith in the other guys that don't get a whole lot of credit, whether it's David or Dino, and right now we've got Austin there. The guys in the bullpen, Jason Motte's injured. These guys have done a lot of great work behind the scenes, and I'm a big believer in that stuff.
I love numbers. God, I love numbers, though I was horrible in math. Algebra III. Second semester of Algebra II was my Waterloo, to be honest with you. Algebra III and Trig could have been Latin or Greek, it wouldn't matter to me. But I do love numbers.
Beyond that I really like people and humans and what makes this guy tick? And I don't think that because you can't necessarily quantify it, it's not as popular of a way to acquire a player, but it really matters. It really matters right now in our clubhouse. But I guess my point is it's a combination of skillful young players that everybody saw coming along. But I don't believe we would be here without the appropriate seasoning among the veterans.
Q. In baseball, you play more games in a season than any other sport, so, again, to bring it around to the one-game playoff. Can you really determine which team's better or is this just the kind of coin toss that comes with it all?
JOE MADDON: Believe me, man, this time of year it's a nightly, night-by-night situation. You saw the game last night. One team scored first, the pitching was really good, and they win a closely contested game.
I've been involved in a lot of the Division Series five-gamers that have gone five games, and we've lost and just one or two guys get hot and you're in trouble. It's not -- it doesn't necessarily determine the better team tonight. It's just sometimes it's about the pitching, first of all, and it's going to start right there. You've got to catch the baseball. We have to catch the ball. And of course, whenever you get an opportunity to score, and I mean that, runner on third, less than two outs, run at second, nobody out, advanced a runner, things like that really become more important right now because it's the seventh game of the World Series tonight, it really is. It's the Super Bowl. It's all of that.
So execution, what you work on daily, constantly from the moment you arrive at Spring Training, everybody does. It's not just us. Everybody does that stuff. So it's a really interesting concept.
Again, from my perspective, I talked to you are on guys yesterday, I want them to continue to play the same game we've been playing all last week and all year. Don't change a thing, please. Just go out there and play. Play like you've been playing, mentally unencumbered. Play the game of baseball and we'll see what happens.
Q. Given what you've seen from Jake off-season and especially in the second half of the season, would you be surprised by anything less than his best tonight?
JOE MADDON: Well, what I do anticipate from Jake is that he's going to be ready. I know he's done his homework. I know he's very confident. The last two outings that he's been out there, we've gotten him out -- I can't even tell you. Relatively soon. Seven innings, 84 pitches, and it was six innings in like 72 or 73, 74. So we try to back off, but he still pitched the innings because he's been so pitch efficient.
So my point there is the fact I think he's going to be rested and ready for this game tonight. I talked about trust. You've got to trust your players. You trust the people you're around. I trust Jake. The way he works, his workouts, his mental toughness, all those things I anticipate will be on display tonight. So that's what I anticipate or expect.
Q. We've watched you manage all year long and we know you have an offensive plan sometimes and a defensive plan. If the game goes right and you're up a run, can we expect your defensive team to be on the field from the 7th inning on? Will it have a much different look?
JOE MADDON: It depends on where we're at in the batting order. But, yeah. Of course, we're going to try to upgrade the defense game in progress. Got to look at the whole picture. Some of it may come down to if you pinch-hit or whatever earlier in the game, which I don't anticipate. But if you do, that may put a wrench in it. In other words, just say if you had hit for Montero, maybe you don't want to take Schwarber out possibly because he's the back-up catcher then. So those are the kind of things you have to be mindful of. But yeah, I've been thinking about it.
You've seen us play. I don't anticipate doing anything differently tonight. I want to play the same game we've been playing. I want to manage the same way we've been managing. So, yeah, game in progress, you look to improve your defense.
Q. With that in mind, we know your feelings on batting practice. Did you consider not having it today?
JOE MADDON: It's optional.
Q. It is optional?
JOE MADDON: Yes.
Q. Okay. Did you think maybe you should take it or was it optional all along? Because usually in the playoffs it's a different animal?
JOE MADDON: No, it's optional for me. If the guys just want to get loose in the cage and play, they're welcome to do that. On a day like today, the guys that aren't playing, they want to hit for sure. Maybe the guys that aren't playing may want to swing a little bit less. I like the idea of optional at this particular juncture. I don't want to say it was mandatory. I don't know if anybody did it yesterday or not.
But for those who have not been around, I think batting practice is the most overrated part of what we do on a daily basis on a Major League level. We've got a nice batting cage right here. You get the same thing done without trying to hit homers.
So whatever the guys want to do. I'd rather you take ground balls and throw to targets, things like that. That's what I like the pregame for. Just get out there and get a feel for the whole thing. It's almost like getting on stage before you have to go on stage kind of a thing. But the actual ritual of batting practice to me is entirely overrated.
Q. Along those same lines, you've made your feelings about the bunt very clear this year. But in a game of this magnitude against Gerrit Cole, does it maybe have more of a place than it did in the middle of the summer?
JOE MADDON: It depends. He's not easy to bunt. Here's a thing about a guy that throws 97 with that outstanding breaking ball, it's not easy to bunt. So do you choose to try to make contact and move the baseball that way? Do you choose the hit-and-run? Do you choose to do other things that it might be easier for a hitter to do as opposed to bunting 97? That's the thing. The outcome, bias component of all this, the fact that you attempt to bunt is going to be successful. It's just as easy to turn the double play if the hitter is slow, and the bunter is bunting in a bad spot, you might have a better chance of turning a double play under those circumstances. So it's not just cookie-cutter moment. It's about who's bunting against this guy? Can he do that or not? Who is running the bases? Can he actually get to second base before a play is made? He's going to get forced at second and a possible double play. So you're looking for the less likely spot maybe for a double play.
So all those things are fluid for me, man. I just can't approach it from one cookie cutter moment. It always is fluid. Look who is pitching. Look who is hitting. I'm telling you, 97 to bunt is not easy, especially if it's elevated.
Q. Since the Wild Card came has come around, there's been more road winners than home winners, and I know you were one of them in Cleveland. I remember that night it was a pretty raucous atmosphere and you guys silenced Alex Cobb pretty quickly. What have you made of the home road dynamic in a one-game situation? Does it really come down to the best pitcher?
JOE MADDON: Yep, it comes down to who pitches better on that particular night. I also think if you're on the road, if you get on the board first, that might take a little bit of steam or wind out of somebody's sails. But that's our concept all year. We want to score first. That is one of the things that if you look at the team that scores first, their winning percentage on an annual basis is pretty good. So you're always trying to score first. So all those things matter.
On the road I've talked about it to the guys that are on this all the time. The biggest part about being at home right now would be that our fans get to see us. Now is there a tremendous advantage to winning or losing? I don't think so. But I do like the idea that if you get to this point, you want to play at least this one game in front of your home group.
Q. The idea of the first part of why you went with an offense or an offensive centric lineup and hoped to get that lead?
JOE MADDON: Yes and no. I mean, always looking to do that, always looking to do that. I've talked about it for several years now. When you come to Spring Training with us, I promise you that first meeting, that's what I'm going to talk about is the score first.
Q. You talked about trust to the guys around you. You've had Dave Martinez beside you for a long time now. What trust do you put in him? What does he do well? Is he ready to manage?
JOE MADDON: He's definitely ready to manage. What does he do well? Like when I went to the Angels years ago with Scioscia, Scioscia gave me a lot of latitude regarding to just do my job. His advice to me on a daily basis was that I would walk in the door and go about my business as though I was going to manage that particular day.
So that was the primary premise of me being a bench coach, and I want Davie to be the same way. So Davie, when he comes to the ballpark every day, he walks in the door as though he's going to manage the game. And there is a pretty good chance that I'm going to get kicked out, so he's got to be ready to do that.
Beyond that, he understands all the numbers that are out there. He understands people and tough conversations. He's really good at tough conversations. He's very straight up, straightforward, and up front. I think that's really vital. You have to have those Godfather days, man, when sometimes you've just got to be blunt and honest with somebody in order to get your point across. He's got all that.
I think by having done this for several years now, he really understands pitching. I think that's a big part of it. The advantage of having been a catcher for me is the fact that I understood that coming into this whole thing. I think if he had not been a catcher, to be able to be a bench coach and really understand what's going on with the pitching matters a lot. Not a little bit, a lot. So he's done it for a while, and he's definitely ready. He's absolutely ready. Some team's going to get lucky.
Q. You said you really liked Tommy. He's underrated offensively. Is there something specific with the skill set that you like tonight or a match-up with Cole tonight? Anything there?
JOE MADDON: Contact. We're a pretty heavy punch-out team. We do strikeout. Tommy and Starlin back-to-back really afford the opportunity to move the baseball. You've got the guys in front of them that are high on base percentage, guys in Schwarber, K.B., the top four guys are really good at getting on base.
Now prototypically they're not necessarily what you're looking at RBI, Tommy or Starlin, but that's been one of our things. If we're not hitting homers, we've got to drive in runs in other ways. I think those two guys have been devoted to moving the baseball to drive in a run without a homer. Both are capable of going over a wall. Tommy will surprise you, I promise you. But I like the idea that they can move the baseball with runners on base.
Q. A little curious. I don't know how much you can reveal. But with adding two starters, Hendricks and Lester, is there any scenario other than injury or long game or with all hands on deck, they'd be possible in relief?
JOE MADDON: That's their primary role, you're right. If something were to happen early, you want to be covered with that. If something were prolonged, you'd want to be covered there also. Yeah, that's it. That was the overarching philosophy behind that. Of course you don't want to see that, but you have to be prepared for it if it does. So that is the reason they're both on the roster, yes.