Maddon willing to use stats, gut with lineup

Maddon willing to use stats, gut with lineup

MESA, Ariz. -- Ben Zobrist has batted first, second and third this spring for the Cubs, but on Sunday, he was in the No. 6 spot.

"Playing around -- just playing around," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's nothing to be read into it, honestly, just playing around with different thoughts."

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Some of those thoughts may have been sparked during a meeting Saturday with the baseball operations people about lineup breakdowns and how important protection is.

"I said, 'When you came in, you caused my head to spin,'" Maddon said of the meeting. "[I said], 'I hope I'm causing your head to spin on the way out the door.'"

Maddon said the sabermetrics tend to not factor in the human element.

"I know what the numbers indicate, but what does that manager think in that moment, and what does that pitcher think in that moment?" Maddon said. "Is this pitcher self-aware enough to know I prefer pitching to the guy behind that guy just because I don't like [facing] this guy? You almost have to do it on a game-by-game basis. Of course, the database won't be big enough to give you solid responses."

The only thing that appears set is that Dexter Fowler, who started Sunday's game with a home run, will lead off, and the pitcher will return to the No. 9 spot rather than bat eighth, which Maddon did last year.

Something else that the analysts need to consider is trends, but those are things Maddon and his staff notice from the dugout and aren't always included in the stats.

"Sometimes my numbers will indicate this hitter should tear it up against that pitcher, but the actual numbers are horrible because you don't see that guy that good," he said. "Furthermore, he's in your head. When he's in your head, he's in there and it's hard to get him out."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.