Should Mets Bat Pitcher Eighth?
From “DanB” in the comments section:
Hey Joe, I am (surprise!) tired of talking about why our shortstop position sucks. What about a good ole’ baseball post about Collins’ idea (actually LaRussa’s) of pitchers batting 8th? At first I didn’t like it because it gives the pitcher 18 more ABs per year. But then I realize a pitcher only gets two to three ABs anyway before they get pinch-hit for. It would be the pinch hitters getting 18 more ABs per year. I actually like the idea of the pinch hitters getting more ABs rather then the typical eighth place hitter, especially since it will be in the late innings. And this is before we debate whether it would give DW more RBI opportunities. Anyone?
If you care what I think … well, I don’t care, is what I think. Like Dan, I do agree that at least half of the at-bats in the pitcher’s slot in the lineup will usually be performed by pinch-hitters, so it’s not a big deal. But then again, if that’s true, then how many more RBI opportunities will David Wright really get in such a configuration? Because at least half the time, the 9th slot in the order will be filled by a pinch-hitter, who may be a better OBP guy than whomever Collins considers batting there (i.e., Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada). I GUESS there’s the possibility of one more RBI opp if you have a Lagares or Tejada batting 9th instead of the pitcher.
But then there is the issue of the #7 hitter getting pitched around, because the pitcher is batting 8th. Is that good or bad in situations when runners are on base? On the one hand, if the #7 hitter is patient and disciplined, he may be pitched around and walked because the pitcher is batting next. On the other hand, a less-disciplined batter in that slot might be more prone to making an out with the opposing pitcher throwing pitches outside the strike zone.
I don’t know the statistics regarding how many times a #7 or #8 hitter bats when there is a scoring opportunity. And, I’m not sure whether those stats are useful / apply if the pitcher is batting 8th, because such a lineup changes everything.
In the grand scheme of things, let’s assume that there is some kind of advantage of batting the pitcher eighth. How MUCH of an advantage is it? Will it result in as many as one or two more wins? Five? Is there any way to determine the advantage or disadvantage?
I really don’t know. I’m a firm believer of putting your very best OBP guy first in the lineup, followed by your very best hitters, with the idea that you want to give your best offensive players as many opportunities to help you as possible.
What’s your thought? Should the Mets consider batting the pitcher eighth on occasion? All the time? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.
First, your “All the time?” qualifier: This is one of my pet peeves over the last couple years – way too much playing with the lineup. If they decide to do the pitcher in the 8-hole, fine (and there are merits for it), but do it and leave it alone. Don’t keep switching things up, so yes, it is either an ‘All the time’ or ‘None of the time’.
Second: I don’t think it has as much to do with who the pitcher is as it does with what does the rest of the line-up look like and what the overall approach of the team offense will be. First off, who is their lead-off hitter? Eric Young Jr. is not (a) an everyday player, or (b) a great leadoff hitter – he is a fourth outfielder. He simply does not get on base enough. I don’t see Chris Young up there either. Murphy is a better #2 (or 6) hitter. So the discussion of hitting the pitcher 8th and trying to place 2 lead-off hitters in there seems a little premature. Now my solution – my opinion is that if Legares is good enough to ‘lead off’ batting 9th, why not have him hit 1st? As he has shown, both in winter ball, and again this spring, he is a better hitter than his full year results showed last year. Nobody will show their potential hitting in the 8 hole – the mindset and approach are completely different, both at the plate and on the bases. I may be alone in this thought, but I would put Lagares at the top of the line up and ‘coach’ him to take more walks. I think a reasonable projection would be something like a .275 avg and .330 OBP with 15-20 SBs, a bunch of doubles (30??) and a few HRs. And he will only grow as a hitter over time, but put him in there at the top and stop bouncing him around. With that, it leaves the shortstop position as the 8 (or 9th) spot. And with that, do they really need to play with the line-up down there? Probably not, as it will weaken the 7th hole meaning d’Arnaud (making an assumption here) will not get as much to hit. So . .my answer is, if they are going to bat Lagares in either the 8 or 9 hole, put him 9 and the pitcher 8. If they want to listen to me (lol) and move Lagares up to the top, there is no need for this discussion. I guess I’m thinking this because Lagares gives you much more upside than a Tejada does for this argument. So, my everyday lineup looks like:
1- Lagares – CF
2- Murphy -2B
3- Wright – 3B
4- Granderson – LF
5- C.Young – RF
6- Davis – 1B (a separate discussion)
7- d’Arnaud – C
8- Shortstop (would love to see Gregorius, but still another discussion)
Obviously, they cannot throw the same lineup out there for 162 games, but mix in EYoung, Satin, or whoever else as appropriate. The most difficult lineup to fill out is when Granderson needs a break – how do you fill that clean-up spot?
BUT, to summarize (did I say this before??): Get something fairly set, stop screwing with it and let everyone know their role.
Return thoughts? Discussion?
Maybe I’m pessimistic, but I’m not seeing “… .275 avg and .330 OBP with 15-20 SBs, a bunch of doubles (30??) and a few HRs.” as a reasonable expectation from Juan Lagares in 2014. Yes, he hit well in the winter, but, then, Anderson Hernandez won two batting titles in the same league — what does it mean? Yes, Lagares has hit well this spring, but again, what does it mean? Lastings Milledge and Darren Reed were perennial stars in spring training. We need to see what Lagares can do consistently against MLB pitchers, and, from what I’ve seen of his skill set, I’m not sure he’s going to hit enough to warrant an everyday job — especially in a lineup that also includes Ruben Tejada.
But, if it turns out that you’re right about that offensive projection, Lagares would indeed be a fine option at the top of the lineup.
After the first time around, the #2 and #3 become like a #3 and #4. The #9 becomes like a second lead-off guy.
But the Mets barely have one lead off guy (EY when/if he starts) let alone two. And if the #2 guy (Murph?) was a bonafide #3, he would have be batting there already.
So in the Mets case, I would say not right now.
If indeed the pitcher bats 8th for the Mets this year, I think it will speak more to the complete lack of punch after the cleanup spot than anything else.
I am rather indifferent as well, but frankly haven’t thought about it much. To me it comes down to the value between protecting the #7 hitter vs. the value of having the pitcher 4 spots from DW in the #3. The other question is who hits 7th and who hits 9th?
Bill above suggests hitting Lagares in the leadoff. I am totally opposed to Lagares hitting at the top of the order at this point in the season (and his career). I do want his glove in CF regularly, or on most days, but I want him hitting 7th or 8th where he can continue to develop offensively without the pressure of hitting at the top of the order.
My preference is to let the Youngs share the leadoff spot. I’ll live with Lagares-Tejada-pitcher at the bottom, or Lagares-pitcher-Tejada if need be.
I am a proponent of using the SABR stats, but there is no stat or combination of stats that is the be all and end all. Baseball is a game of infinite variables, so provided there is not overwhelming evidence as to benefit and cost related to batting a pitcher 8th, there are some situations that it may make sense in more than others. I’m sure we would all agree that there is overwhelming evidence not to bat the pitcher 1st, or 4th, but 16 ABs a year, combined with the variable impacts on the 7th hitter, the 3rd and 4th hitters, pitching changes, etc., could make the move good in some spots and bad in others. That said, I don’t disagree with Izzy that Terry Collins is likely doing it on a whim, or at least a partial whim.
I have a question for Dave. Have you all used or studied saber metrics and if so do you think there have been studies trying to determine where best to place the pitcher or has it been ignored. If its been studied and is good I can see many managers being afraid to tick off their players by bating them behind the pitcher. I don’t think any “8 hole” hitters would challenge LaRussa.
To answer your question, no I haven’t dug into whether there are studies on where the pitcher hits. It looks like you did, so thanks for those links.
And here is something for Terry to do so he can further distract from the problems of his team. In 1956, Bobby Bragan, batted the pitcher 7th several times. It might be a better idea than 8th with the power guys up one and two, especially since Alderson doesn’t think a led off guy is important.
Here’s an idea: how about the Mets bat the pitcher leadoff? Then they can get him out of the way immediately. 😉
Seriously though, I’ve always thought it makes sense to consider batting David Wright first. He’s the best offensive player the Mets have, the best OBP guy as well — why not give him the most opportunities and the first opportunity?
When TC pinch it’s for the pitcher Wright will be the on-deck hitter. That’s good!
If there is one thing this team cannot do it is give up at bats, even if it is only 18 per season. If Tejada can’t hit better than Bartolo Colon, then the Mets have a bigger problem than the batting order. If the game is on the line with 2 outs and the #8 hitter coming up, I hope we have a better option than both from the bench, but if not, the season is already lost.
One other thing; athletes feed on confidence. If you are batting 9th in the National League that is going to be a blow to the ego no matter the reason or who you are.
On the other hand, if your pinch-hitters are scrubs, then by all means give them and the pitchers as few ABs as possible, and bury them in the 9 spot.
Since computer simulations have shown lineup orders to be mostly irrelevant, I assume that “ability to improvise” is vastly more important than whatever lineup you start with. It’s the same logic behind teams with great bullpens exceeding their pythagorean win projections by using their best arms in the most high-leverage spots.
I wonder if anyone will figure out that carrying Matt Stairs and letting your 6th reliever pitch multiple innings is better than carrying 7 relievers…