Pittsburgh Pirates v. Chicago Cubs – The Intangibles

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Oct 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman

Josh Harrison

(5) reacts at third base after hitting a triple against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs are set to square off today in the NL Wild Card game, and we’ve been breaking down and comparing every area of each team in preparation for this contest. Yesterday we compared the projected starting outfields, the projected starting infields, and the bullpens. Today, we’re starting off by taking a look at the underrated areas: the intangibles. This includes the projected benches for both teams, the managers, and the other intangible factors that both teams bring to the table.

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The benches could be huge in this game, as runs will most likely be hard to come by, so both teams may elect to use pinch runners frequently. If the Pirates have a lead early, look for Clint Hurdle to go to the pen early no matter how well Gerrit Cole may be pitching. The Pirates have the best bullpen in the majors by ERA, so that’s a strength that should be used. This only adds to the possibility of multiple pinch hitters being used. If the Pirates are down early, Hurdle may also be tempted to lift Cole for a pinch hitter to try to produce runs in any way possible. Thus, the bench could prove to be the deciding factor in this game.

Hurdle may also have a number of decisions to make if the Pirates are down early, so his game-day managing will be key to this game. Joe Maddon is generally thought to be one of the best managers in the game, but Hurdle is good in his own right. Let’s hope Hurdle doesn’t overthink any moves he may make.

And if runs are hard to come by, look to both managers to emphasize the stolen base early and often. Speed becomes an intangible factor on the base-paths that can turn the tide of the game. Both teams also have outfielders with a number of outfield assists, so don’t be surprised if a runner is thrown out on the base-paths as well.

Let’s first take a look at the projected benches for each team and how they can influence this game.

Next: The Benches