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Should the Cardinals Bat the Pitcher Eighth?

Tue, 20 May 2014 12:18:05 CDT

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed last week when I came across the Cardinals’ starting lineup for the day. Two things immediately popped into my head: 1) Kolten Wong was back in the starting lineup - and not soon enough I might add - and 2) This Cardinals team has a lot more speed than any team I can remember in recent history. I saw that Wong was batting second and Peter Bourjos was hitting eighth. The two are certainly the fastest players on the active roster, but they seem so far apart in the batting order. This is mostly because Peter Bourjos’s ability to make contact consistently is questionable at best, but his defense is too valuable to remove from the everyday lineup. Then it hit me: the Cardinals have the perfect lineup to bat the pitcher eighth.

Now, baseball traditionalists everywhere always throw a fit whenever the topic of a Major League pitcher hitting eighth is even whispered. Sabermetricians, however, have studied the topic and have reached the conclusion that batting the pitcher eighth is the best way to optimize the production of a Major League team’s lineup. I won’t bore everyone with an elaborate number of statistics, but the evidence is available. Trust me.

Traditionalists believe it’s foolish to move the pitcher up one spot because it means more at-bats for a pitcher over the course of a regular season. While that may be true, we’re only talking about eighteen more at-bats for the eighth place hitter over the ninth place hitter…AND when you take into consideration that complete games are a rarity in today’s game, you can essentially cut those eighteen at-bats in half. That leaves us with nine at-bats. Yes, nine more at-bats for the eighth place hitter for an entire season. In my opinion, that’s not a good enough reason to refrain from switching things up.

As I mentioned earlier, Bourjos isn’t good enough at making contact to move him to the top of the order, so why not move him down one spot and still have him hitting in front of the top of the order? Last week, I wrote an article about how Wong should be the Cardinals’ new leadoff hitter. Can you imagine if an inning started with Bourjos and Wong both reaching base with nobody out in front of Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, and so on (this lineup is deeper on paper than I realized)? That is one tempting lineup; and the best part is, you don’t have to worry about moving Bourjos to the top of the order. That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Plus, Bourjos could see quality pitches since he would no longer be hitting in front of the pitcher; meaning his batting average could potentially increase. The one player who wouldn’t benefit from moving the pitcher up would be Jhonny Peralta, but I believe Peralta’s plate discipline is much better than Bourjos’s.

Although I’m not a big sabermetrics guy, I do believe the Cardinals should bat the pitcher eighth…but I’m only one man. What do you think? Thanks for reading!

-David Jenkins

 

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