If there is one thing to be learned in Joe Maddon‘s two years as the Chicago Cubs manager, it’s that he is anything but conventional. For nearly his entire first season with the Cubs, he batted the pitcher eighth in the batting order.
However, in 2016, the Chicago Cubs’ skipper reverted back to the traditional pitcher in the nine-hole. There were rumblings going into Spring Training that Maddon would revert back to the pitcher batting eighth.
The pitcher batting eighth can be very beneficial to a lineup. Any given pitcher usually gets no more than two at-bats a game, then it’s pinch-hitters the rest of the way. The best hitters also sit at the top of an order, so, it makes sense to have a quality hitter in the ninth spot in the order, to set it up for the leadoff man.
A powerful 1-2-3 on the North Side
Say, for instance, the Cubs had Albert Almora hit ninth, to set it up for guys like Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo at the top of. This creates more opportunity as the lineup turns over again. Instead of a pitcher, traditionally considered an easy out, using a contact hitter increases your run probability.
The idea of a pitcher hitting eighth was originally started by Tony La Russa with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he used to do it on a regular basis. The “movement” of pitchers hitting eighth has actually spread so much that there was a point in 2015 where almost every National League team was doing it at some point in the season.
There are arguments against the pitcher batting eighth, the most common one being that it is unconventional. Well, baseball is more unconventional than conventional at this point in history.
Another argument is that the pitcher batting eighth will give the pitcher more at-bats. This is most definitely not true. The pitcher rarely pitches the whole game, so the most he gets is, what, two at-bats, sometimes three? Plus, the bottom of any order will naturally get less at bats than the top of the order, depending on how the game goes.
Batting the pitcher eighth makes too much sense for some teams. Especially for a team like the Cubs, who have three marquee hitters at the top of the order. A guy like Javier Baez, Addison Russell or Albert Almora hitting ninth is a no-brainer to set it up for those guys at the top.