Oct. 21: Joe Maddon Pregame Interview
Q. You've had a lot of rookies really contribute big-time for you this year. When Kyle Schwarber came up, could you have imagined the impact he would have made on your club then and now in the postseason?
JOE MADDON: Well, it's pretty impressive what he's done in a short period of time. When he came up, the combination of him and Dexter really got us going offensively, I thought, in the 1 and 2 slot. I was really vacillating how to utilize him at which spot of the batting order when he did arrive, and we chose number 2 and it was really very beneficial.
Dexter got hot and ended up scoring over 100 runs this season because of that. So, yeah, he was a huge part of our ascension in the second half was the fact that Kyle got here and how well he's handled everything. I mean, here's a guy that was in the instructional league last year at this time, and now he comes up to the Major Leagues and on a daily basis it doesn't amaze me or doesn't cease to amaze me how comfortable he is.
When you speak to him pregame in the dugout during the game, he processes the moment really well. He's never overwhelmed. Learning a new position, he's playing left field well. He's also caught. And of course how well he hits, hitting a ball literally a foot outside yesterday for a home run. So everything he's done has been really impressive to watch, and this is just the beginning of his career as he gets more comfortable and learns the game a little better. He's also a good base runner, he runs as good as people know, so there's a lot of pluses with him.
Q. How would you describe Jason Hammel's season thus far, and what gives you the confidence that he'll be able to come up big tomorrow?
JOE MADDON: First half All-Star caliber almost. He really got off well. I was touting him for the All-Star team in the beginning of the season. Very impressive stuff and command. Then he got hurt. He injured his leg.
Coming back from that has not nearly been the same, primarily talking about command. If you look at the numbers on the gun, reading his fastball velocity, slider velocity whatever, they've been pretty much the same. It's just a matter of throwing it where he wants to. So coming back to delivery has not been as accurate as it had been prior to the injury. So I know -- listen, he's not hurt. He's definitely not been overworked, so he's going to be strong going into tonight's game.
I saw him flip some really good games in the beginning of the year, getting deep into the game, like six, seven, eight innings throwing really well. So there's no reason he can't do it again. There is an old scouting adage, it's going to be about commanding his fastball primarily tonight.
Q. Have you been able to stop and appreciate what a young team has been able to do this season? And also maybe where it's going?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I oftentimes look out on the field and I look at short, third, and left field and I'll see KB, Addison, and Schwarber playing in left field and I think, wow, to think about the level of experience that these guys have had to this point and where they've gotten us already, that's pretty impressive.
So I have thought about that. You look in right field, you might see Soler out there, you might see Baez at second base. I think we played five rookies in one game this year in Milwaukee, I think. So that's not lost on me by any means.
But beyond that, I agree with what I think you're insinuating, just moving forward, this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning for these guys. Obviously, with good health, everybody's looking for that. As our guys learn the game even better, primarily I'd say offensively learn the game better, just knowing what they're doing at the plate, what the pitcher's trying to do to them, adjustments to be made, that's going to be really exciting to watch over the next couple of years.
Beyond that, defensively, I think they're all going to be high-end, high-caliber defensive players. I really do. They're very skillful. They're very athletic, their work ethic is spectacular. They're highly accountable and they're not looking for any kind of entitlements. They're really a different set of cats. And this is all based on, like I said, scouting and development is where it begins. I get to walk in the door and I find all these riches inside. Very fortunate for me as manager, but these kids are all that.
Q. After the game last night, Miggy said that all season long the pitchers have had trouble holding runners on base. Is that a function of just the type of pitchers you have? Is it maybe an organization philosophy of like Greg Maddux like just focus on the batter or something else?
JOE MADDON: We're always working diligently to become better at that. A lot of it is unload time to the plate. We've actually picked some guys off. I think some of the guys -- some guys are normally better than others. It's something that, believe me, from the first day of Spring Training, when we get together with the pitchers and catchers, we try to work on that to get to be more efficient at holding runners. And part of that is just learning times, just holding the baseball. Sometimes the most effective thing to do as a pitcher is just to hold the ball and create different times where you unload to unsettle the runner.
So I can't disagree that we've not been the best at that. It's something we're always looking forward to getting better with. But it's just a work in progress. No, we don't just say don't worry about the runner. We don't say that at all. We have to get better at it.
Q. With replay, do you get the sense now that more runners are being called out sliding when their foot comes off the base?
JOE MADDON: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think that's definite. We talked about that going back to Spring Training again. The way you're teaching tagging these days is even different. In the past you'd always talk about getting in, getting out, it's kind of like swiping, putting the tag down and getting your hand out of there.
Now you want to make sure you hold it there longer in the event the guy does come off the bag, because you do have video proof that he did. So that's being taught entirely differently than it had been. Of course, without the video component, we would not even consider that, because you don't want guys getting hurt. You want the tag in and out, whatever. But the video has definitely altered our way or method of teaching our tagging.
Q. You've obviously made it clear you're still confident. What is it about from your experience or this team, the make-up of this team or Theo's resume, what is it that gives you the confidence that you guys can pull this off?
JOE MADDON: There's so many times during the course of the baseball season that you go through moments like this. We did get swept here by the Phillies in the middle of the season and everybody was preaching doom and gloom at that point. We rebounded very quickly and nicely from that 0-3 stretch there. There's many times during the season that you'll go 0-3 and are able to rebound from it.
The biggest thing is you've got to get the other team back on their heels a little bit. We've not been able to do that. So my point is we've done it before. I know this is the postseason. I know it's that part of it is different; however, we have put together many four-game winning streaks this year already ourselves. But, again, you have to do it one game at a time. A big part of our formula for success has been the ability to score first and get there and then remain on top. So we've not been able -- I guess we've been behind in like our last five games, something like that, including the Cardinal series, which is really unusual for us.
So more than anything, if we could just get back to our methods and, again, it just takes something that happened in a positive way early for us in a game, and then we get that feeling back. But that's the ebb and flow of this game. It's not unnatural or abnormal for a team to be able to win four games in a row. It happens all the time.
But they've been very good. I'm not taking anything -- I won't disparage them. The Mets have played really, really well. We have to take it from them, they're not going to give us anything.
Q. Assuming you need to go to your bullpen tonight, who does not pitch?
JOE MADDON: Lester and Arrieta.
Q. Can you just run through your thinking in starting Schwarber against a lefty?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I mean, this lefty's pretty good from looking at with Matz. The big thing about Schwarbs, if they do make a mistake, he can hit it on top of the scoreboard or the river. So it's hard to walk away from that.
The option would have been to go Deno or A.J., Austin Jackson. But the fact that if you make a mistake, Schwarbs can do that. More recently against Siegrist with the Cardinals, that ball went pretty far. There's -- not every lefty is created equally, and I'm talking about pitchers right now. So you're trying to evaluate how your left-handed hitters hit against left-handed pitchers. There is that lefty that's a little bit more difficult to hit against than others. There is actually the reverse -- I'm not insinuating that this guy is, but there is something within his pitch make-up match that I kind of like Schwarbs from what I've read.
Again, the eyeball test, I don't have it. Video doesn't help me. I've got to see it for real. But there's something within that that I think there's a shot right here. So we did it that way, protecting with Baez, and I put the pitcher back in the 8 hole based on a lot of philosophy that I've talked about in the past.
So this is the kind of lefty, even though he's really good on lefties, I think among the kind of pitches that he throws, it gives Schwarbs a shot.
Q. Also along those lines, what was your thinking at catcher tonight?
JOE MADDON: Left-handed pitcher, Matz, left-handed, get Rossy back out there. That's it. I mean, if it was a right-handed pitcher, you would have seen Miggy tonight again, but it's a left-handed pitcher, so you'll see Rossy tonight. Everything going properly, it's Jon tomorrow, you'll see Rossy again tomorrow.
Q. Just to go back briefly to last night, I wonder what went into the process to not challenge the David Wright play at second base, what was the double in the 7th?
JOE MADDON: I was watching, I thought he tagged up well. Did you see differently?
Q. I thought he was safe. A couple of replays have shown on the slide that it was a pretty close one.
JOE MADDON: Oh, I thought -- our guys didn't ring down. I thought it looked good. But nobody rang down to tell me it was different.
Q. The Mets have been very aggressive, maybe uncharacteristically so on the bases, especially the steals at third.
JOE MADDON: Right.
Q. Is there anything different in, is it more likely in the playoffs that teams may go out of their regular season character to do something that might show up in a scouting report? Also, are scouting reports that you either receive or give to your players, are they any different in the regular season than in the playoffs?
JOE MADDON: First of all, I mean, we did throw out Granderson yesterday in that first attempt. David Wright, I've never been around him. He's a really good base runner as evidenced by the tag up going from first to second on the tag up. When he stole second yesterday, we just did not do good. He likes to get kind of like a walking or jump lead, and we just did not react to that well. But we were aware of that. But he encountered that.
And then the steals of third base, Cespedes, just an aggressive play on his part. He's done that before and we've known that. So a lot of their guys that are showing that here, they've actually done that before.
The Mets, in general, are more of the money ball of the past where they don't want to make outs on the bases and I realize that. But their base runners have made some good plays. I think back to the previous question they've taken advantage of some pitchers being somewhat slow to the plate. I think they probably scouted that.
Regarding scouting reports in general, you're always looking for a little nugget here or there that you might be able to utilize at that time of the year. But even having received nuggets, you still have to go out there and execute, and they've been able to execute their nuggets.
Q. Does your technique dealing with umpires change, and is there kind of an intimidation factor because the games are so important, it's important you stay on the field, those types of things going into seeing how strike zones set up?
JOE MADDON: Honestly, no. It's not an intimidation factor. I would use the word more respect. If you look at the guys that are on the field right now umpiring this game, I've known a lot of them for a long time. So if I have to make a point, I've done it more subtly during the course of the series.
So I give, like Ted last night, Ted and I go so far back it's incredible. I have a lot of respect for the man. So if you want to make a point, it's almost like with your players, you make it in a more subtle manner. So it's not, truthfully, it's not intimidation, it's respect.