What kind of manager did the Cubs get?

  • Not only did manager Joe Maddon's best teams at Tampa Bay like to run, they were very successful at it.

    Not only did manager Joe Maddon's best teams at Tampa Bay like to run, they were very successful at it. Associated Press

Updated 11/4/2014 8:42 PM

The euphoria from Joe Maddon's introductory news conference as manager of the Cubs may never wear off.

And that's OK. Monday was one of the most fun and memorable days in recent off-the-field Cubs history.


Sooner or later, though, the team will begin playing baseball games, and fans will want to know what kind of manager they have.

Research is relatively new on how many wins a manager is worth during a season.

When Maddon was taking the Tampa Bay Rays to the postseason in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013, estimates had him responsible for anywhere from 4 to 8 wins per season.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, a purported lover all of things statistical, believes stats can't tell the whole story of Maddon's true value.

"It's hard," Epstein said. "Sometimes I think in today's game we try to quantify too many things instead of appreciating the essence of them.

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"What does it mean to have a dynamic manager? I think it means you have the potential to have an edge in everything related to events on the field, whether it's preparation, decision making in game, knowing that you can get the most out of your players, trying to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

A few things about Maddon are apparent.

For example, good teams managed by Maddon like to run. In three of Tampa Bay's playoff seasons -- 2008, 2010 and 2011 -- the Rays led the American League in stolen bases.

And fear not you fans who despise the sacrifice bunt. Maddon's 2008 World Series team was last in the AL in sacrifice bunts. They were eighth in sac bunts in 2010, seventh in 2011 and 13th in 2013.

The 2014 edition of Baseball Prospectus, published last winter, noted: "In his eight years on the job, Tampa has the most stolen-base attempts of any team. They have one of the best success rates, too: 73.8 percent of all attempts have succeeded, the ninth-best rate in all of baseball."


In 2013, the Prospectus summed up Maddon's approach as "taking risks, putting players where they're not supposed to be (he's King of the Shift) and disregarding any limiting convention of the game. He's an artifex: a creator, a maker, a builder of both systems and cultures."

Maddon also likes the National League game, which is played without the designated hitter.

"National League baseball is very cool," Maddon said during the question-and-answer part of his news conference. "In the American League, I used to take the DH out as often as I could to just play a National League game."

Later, I asked him to expound on that.

"Just the intellectual component," he said. "You have to pay attention all the time in this game. I always play the game before the game. But this (the NL game), there are so many moving parts to keep track of during the course of the game.

"In the National League, having a really good bench coach and pitching coach regarding movement is very important, and I learned that.

"You're definitely more fatigued, I think, mentally, after a National League game as opposed to an American League game."

Aside from the analytics, Maddon has a quirky personality, one that allows his players to relax, be themselves and play the game.

"I'm not really big on pregame (work)," he said. "I think pregame is overrated. Batting practice in general is overrated. So there will be different ways to grab even a half-hour or hour for the guys to rest."

That relaxed, offbeat approach is just fine with Maddon's boss.

"It's wonderful," Epstein said. "The game is played by human beings. It's a grind, 162 games. In general in life, I think people perform better at work when they're happy.

"People perform better at work when they can be themselves. People perform better at work when they can be comfortable. People perform better at work when they like the people they're around.

"That's exactly the environment Joe creates. People like him. He makes people comfortable. He makes them feel good about themselves.

"They can kind of make the clubhouse their home. They don't have to worry about certain rules as long as they're handling things the right way.

"That's something by force of personality you create that environment. I think Joe's a master at doing that."

• Follow Bruce's reports on Twitter@BruceMiles2112.


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