2 min read General Cubs Information

Notes on Z Move

By Tim Sheridan
April 26, 2010

Nothing like playing the Brewers to get the Cubs back on track, yesterdays 12-2 thrashing capped off a most enjoyable sweep of the Beer Boys.

Taking notes around the Cubs blogosphere the move of Big Z to the bullpen has got Cubs and baseball fans buzzing…from desperation (which it partly was) to Lou losing his mind (doubtful), the sentiments are wide ranging and in my view (without any polls) about 70 percent on the negative. Although that figure may have gone down slightly after the weekend sweep.

The Z move was a surprise to most when it happened last week and I’ll be honest there’s many good arguments as to why this is the wrong thing to do. Many of those opinions use strong statistical analysis to show why this will not work. However, in certain cases it’s not just about the numbers, at times you need to go past or against the stats to see something that’s hard to quantify.

Don’t get me wrong, I love stats and numbers…Heck, back in college I developed a system based on numbers to beat the house in Las Vegas betting on sports. That love of numbers didn’t change in spite of a Vegas weekend with vague memories of a student loan check, kamikaze shots, the Circus Circus, some lopsided NBA games, and a drive back to Flagstaff with repeated muttering of the words “you’ve got to stick to the system”. However that is another story.

My point is that in spite of a mountain of statistical evidence to the contrary sometimes you have to go with a decision based on a gut instinct…preferably less the kamikaze shots. Baseball is played by humans and not by numbers and that is the variable in the equation. Emotions are not subject to following the same pattern every time. So while the Big Z move doesn’t make sense in many statistical ways the only number that matters right now is in the win column. One thing was clear prior to the Z move, the relief core was not getting the job done.

It’s not like Big Z has been traded and this is permanent, he can go back to the starting rotation at some point. Time will tell if this was the right move but shoring up the relief pitching was needed and that can’t be denied.

One of the tough parts of any boss or managers job is motivating his or her staff; Lou sending Z to the pen seems as much about motivation as it is about solidifying a Cubs weakness. The change can serve both functions, motivation and better relief pitching. At some point down the road the Cubs can put Z back in the rotation and bring up a young kid like Cashner or make a trade for a vet relief pitcher. So this could be a double win, the Cubs get a more motivated Z in the rotation and more experience for a young pitcher until he’s ready to move up to the big club. It’s a gamble and in the end could implode the Cubs 2010 season but it also could be exactly what was needed.

Lou has been around a long time and I don’t think the fact he doesn’t kick as much dirt onto the umpires should be interpreted as a lack of motivation or that making a move against the numbers means he’s lost his mind. It just may be that Piniella’s baseball instincts and ability to motivate players makes this the right move at the right time…we shall see.

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