By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs had the top pitching staff in baseball this season, with four starters winning 15 or more games and the lowest batting average against their pitchers in the big leagues at .212.

While Cubs pitchers have earned all the respect in the world from manager Joe Maddon, they haven’t earned an unlimited leash.. Maddon will play it by ear as he goes into postseason and not be afraid to use an early hook.

“One of our strengths on this ball club is starting pitching,” Maddon said before the start of Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday between his Cubs and the Giants. “Our bullpen has been good, because our starters have been so good. Again for this time of year when you are usually less tolerant of the starting pitcher, you want to get him out for the relief pitcher. We have seen that all over (in the playoffs). That has been our strength. Jon Lester pitching deeply in games has been our strength. Kyle (Hendricks), Jake (Arrieta), John Lackey, Jason (Hammel). They all have been have been going deeply in the game all year.”

Maddon has spent 40 years in baseball learning his trade. He has little time for players who don’t see the big picture of winning the ball game on the given day. Therefore, making the right move in that critical moment of the game will still be his unemotional response.

“It is all about the moment,” Maddon said. “Things may have to change (in the postseason). You have five days to win three games. That is the only way to move on in the tourney. Yes, you have to be less tolerant. You must stay in the moment. You also have to be mindful of what got you here. I must quickly determine what is going on and decide if I am better off with the guy on the mound or going to the pen.”

Maddon admitted his bullpen is the aspect he must pay the most attention to on a daily basis. Apparently, that doesn’t change in the postseason.

“The one thing I worry about most on a daily basis is the bullpen,” he said. “That is it. The line of construction of your starters is fairly standard.”

Maddon added that he expects to be “less tolerant” in any given situation with a starter, believing it’s better to turn to the bullpen sooner than later.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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