(CBS) Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn’t much interested in answering hypothetical questions about postseason lineups when his team hasn’t yet clinched a berth yet, but he has let on this much.
With the high-stakes games upon the Cubs and the playoffs looming, he’ll rely heavily on the familiar infield quartet to anchor his lineup: Anthony Rizzo at first base, Javier Baez at second, Addison Russell at shortstop and Kris Bryant at third. That was the infield alignment the Cubs typically utilized in the playoffs en route to a championship in 2016.
“When Javy’s at second and Addison is at short and you got KB, Riz and (Willson) Contreras behind the plate, my god, that’s the D-peat we’ve talking about,” Maddon said on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday afternoon. “So it’s also hard to run away from that.”
Maddon’s comment came in the context of the many difficult lineups decisions he’ll encounter should the Cubs reach the postseason, as they’re in line to do with a 3.5-game lead in the NL Central with 13 games left. As he explained, it’s not and either/or choice of Russell or Baez at shortstop. He will keep playing both.
Both Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist are capable of playing second base or the outfield. Utilizing one of them at second base opens up an extra outfield spot and potentially more at-bats for someone like Kyle Schwarber, but Maddon loves the Russell-Baez duo up the middle. So it sounds like the lineup tweaks from day to day will come in the outfield.
While emphasizing all that, Maddon also indicated he’s likely to favor offense over defense when filling out his lineup card in the postseason, though he’ll be ready to quickly utilize defensive substitutions in-game.
“You remember that one-game playoff against the Pirates a couple years ago?” Maddon said, in reference to the 2015 wild-card game in Pittsburgh in which he started Tommy La Stella at third base. “We went offense, then to defense. I would think we would probably go there first if we can. And again, just looking at the overall numbers against the particular pitchers, sometimes right on right is OK. Actually, Milwaukee has a couple of those dudes.
“If it’s close enough, you would probably go offense early, then turn it over to defense game in progress. You’ve got to garner a lead. But I don’t know man, you just look at both sides’ pitchers. We’re probably talking as much as anything about ground balls (in making those lineup decisions).”