Pittsburgh Pirates v. Chicago Cubs – The Intangibles

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Oct 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) looks on from the dugout before the Pirates host the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Managers

Clint Hurdle has never truly been considered one of the great managers in the game. He’s gotten more respect now as a player’s coach and because he’s managed three consecutive seasons of winning, playoff baseball for the Pirates. But he’s never been considered one of the better game-day managers.

So far, Hurdle made the right choice for the starting pitcher, and it sounds like he’s going to go with a good lineup for Wednesday night. There’s no wrong option for how Hurdle decides to choose his lineup, and I have faith that he’ll put out good one. From there, Hurdle will be judged based on when he decides to pull Cole or pinch-hit for him, who he chooses to pinch-hit, and how he chooses the pitchers to use from his bullpen. Honestly, with how great the bullpen’s been all season long, I don’t think Hurdle will have a problem in choosing those pitchers, nor do I think he’ll pick someone he shouldn’t. He’ll go Joakim Soria, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon in relief with a late lead, or he’ll turn to Joe Blanton or Francisco Liriano as late long relievers if the game isn’t close or if the Pirates are playing from behind.

I’m confident that Hurdle will make mostly good decisions in this game. This is a do-or-die matchup, and Hurdle knows that. He’s learned from managing the Pirates in the playoffs each of the last two seasons, and that experience will help him immensely in this game.

Joe Maddon has the reputation as one of the best managers in the game. For a look time with Tampa Bay, Maddon didn’t usually have many great pieces to play with. He had great teams, but he always had his work cut out for him. Now he’s managing a team with a huge payroll and a wealth of talent, and he’s done a fantastic job in bringing the Cubs to the postseason this quickly in his debut season.

There are two things that I immediately think of when I think of Maddon managing this game. First, expect the pitcher to bat 8th, which he’s done for much of this season. Second, look for Maddon to react quickly if things get out of hand. When he was managing late in the season trying to catch Pittsburgh for home field, he wasn’t afraid to lift pitchers early. He most likely won’t have to worry about lifting Arrieta early this game, but expect him to make defensive changes late, steal bases, and generally be aggressive as the game progresses.

Hurdle is and always will be a player’s coach. Maddon has the strategical edge, and I think that factors more into a one-game playoff than a series or over the course of the regular season.

Verdict: Cubs

Next: The Intangibles