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Maddon's Move, and Why it Makes Sense

In a surprise move, Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon announced this morning that pitcher Scott Kazmir will start Game 5 for the Rays in Boston, getting the ball on regular rest -- he pitched Game 2 on Saturday -- while saving scheduled starter "Big Game" James Shields for a potential Game 6, if the series goes that long. Dave presciently noted the possibility of the change in his notebook from Boston today.

The move has been heralded as a call from Maddon's gut, perhaps in an attempt to help Kazmir find some of the magic he had in the regular season but, as blogger Chad Finn notes in this entry, there's a larger strategic thought process behind it, too.

Finn thinks the largest thought behind the rotational shift is to be able to use a fresh bullpen behind Kazmir, but that logic seems a bit circuitous. If Shields had started and gone deeper into the game, Maddon still would have been able to save his relievers for Game 6 back in Florida.

Instead, Finn's other consideration, Shields' excellent performance at home and his nightmarish starts in Fenway Park -- as Finn notes, he's 0-2 with a 21.21 ERA in Boston -- seem to be the more salient reason for the shift.

Regardless, the most interesting note in Finn's entry is the last one: the concept that Maddon might be adjusting the entire rotation to avoid having Kazmir pitch in front of home plate umpire Derryl Cousins. From Finn's post:

Cousins is scheduled to call balls and strikes in Game 6, and there is a history between the umpire and Kazmir. Following a 6-2 loss to the Angels June 11 during which the Rays' lefthander questioned Cousins's strike zone, he accused the veteran umpire of making "makeup calls" in certain situations.

Here's a snippet of the writeup from that game:

Rays starter Scott Kazmir had several issues with home plate umpire Derryl Cousins after Wednesday's game . . . The game turned when Cousins called a close pitch ball four on Reggie Willits in the seventh inning Wednesday and Maicer Izturis followed with a two-run single that put the Angels ahead 3-2.

"That was unbelievable, I'd never seen anything like that before,'' Kazmir said. "I never said anything like this about an umpire before but that was just a crucial part of the game and you just don't do that. Makeup calls or not makeup calls - call it when it's there, you know what I mean? You shouldn't change your strike zone because of the count. It doesn't make sense.''

As Kazmir told last night on the possibility of being moved to avoid further confrontations with Cousins: "That might be a good idea."

That's a pretty revolutionary thought. Can anyone else think of a recent playoff team that altered their rotation to provide favorable umpiring matchups? It's just another way in which Maddon seems to be thinking a step ahead of the curve to keep his team on track. He knows he'll need Kazmir in the World Series if, or when, the Rays get there. Taking every step to get him in the right state of mind makes sense for Tampa Bay going forward, and it doesn't hurt that it helps one of his other pitchers, as well.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 15, 2008; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Rays , Red Sox  
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Next: Not Done Yet


Speaking of moves by Maddon, I'd be interested to know what he said to the pitchers on his trips to the mound last night (the trips where he spoke to each pitcher without taking him out). Whatever he said, it seemed to do the trick.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 15, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Forgive me, I missed who Cameron Smith was when this blog got launched, but goodness - what a great bit of info to share!! Certainly the combination of Shields' performance and the Cousins v. Kazmir are why Maddon made the move. I didn't follow the link to the blog site, but does anyone know if Maddon would have known the umpire lineup before setting his own rotation at the beginning of the ALCS? Stands to reason he would have tried to set up Kazmir back then to avoid Cousins if possible. I'd research that, but I'm at work and all :)

Posted by: Ryan | October 15, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Get back to work, Ryan.

Posted by: Ryan's boss | October 15, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Ryan and Ryan's boss...both of you get back to Blackberry keeps buzzing and it is ruining my sail trip in the Bahamas

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss | October 15, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse


YOU SOB, I'll take every dime you have you scum bag.

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's wife | October 15, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

ryan says hi...

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's wife's boss | October 15, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ryan's boss's boss, hope the trip is grand, take your time getting back!

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's wife "other man" | October 15, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Have your people contact my people ASAP!

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's wife's lawyer | October 15, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

It really is beautiful down here in the islands!

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's secretary | October 15, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Ryan's boss's boss's wife's boss says, "You better not let me catch you with Nolan again, you knuckle baller!"

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's wife' boss | October 15, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.

Posted by: Ryan's boss's boss's wife's boss's skipper | October 15, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Your comment about "circuitous logic" totally misses the point about the fresh bullpen from the day off. Yes, the bullpen would still be fresh on Saturday if Shields goes deep in Game 5. But the issue is having a fresh bullpen for Game 7 if Kazmir starts Game 6 and gives his usual 5 inning 110-pitch effort, forcing Maddon to empty the bullpen in Game 6 and have his most effective/valuable relievers gassed in the event of a Game 7 the next day. This is a smart move by Maddon, who fortunately understands the concept of bullpen management better than the author of this post.

Posted by: Rays Fan | October 15, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Todd! Todd! Are you runnin' around down in the islands with that Ryan crew again? If you are, just know that daddy is goin' to run over your sorry a** with a snowsled when you get back up here!

Posted by: Sarah | October 15, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a good move. With a two-game cushion on the BoSox, why not save your best pitcher for when he's best: at home. And although Kazmir hasn't been great lately, he's a great pitcher who will give the Rays a chance to clinch the AL pennant in Game 5.

Both Kazmir and Shields are available for request on the new website OneSeason, where you can trade virtual shares in your favorite sports players, teams and leagues for market based returns.

Posted by: IVSPORT | October 15, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

the point is not to save the bullpen for Game 6, it's to save the bullpen for Game 7. That is assuming Kaz does not win Game 5 of course...but here it is. If Shields pitches Game 5 and loses, there is an off day, and then Game 6 and Game 7 are 2 days in a row. That would set up Kaz to pitch Game 6. If he sucks, the Rays blow their pen early, which could be a big blow for Game 7. Maddon is trying to set up his rotation to give him the best chance at winning. Now with Shields pitching Game 6 if necessary, if he goes late in the game,but does not win, this sets up a better bullpen for Game 7.

Posted by: brian | October 15, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

oh, did not see Rays Fan comments....glad someone else saw that

Posted by: brian | October 15, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

This took a life of its own after I posted yesterday, total time killer, but glad others jumped on board the SS Slacker!

Posted by: The orignial Ryan's Boss's Boss | October 16, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Get back to work, gosh darn it...

Posted by: Sarah | October 17, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

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