The Nationals are 5-0 since Manager Jim Riggleman moved the pitcher to eighth in the lineup, and part of their success has been the production out of the ninth spot, which has been occupied by Brian Bixler, Roger Bernadina, Ian Desmond and Alex Cora. Combined, they’ve gone 7 for 18 with a double and a walk. Batting leadoff, Jayson Werth has hit with men on base with greater frequency than when he hit third. Which is pretty incredible.
Just as important as their ability to reach is simply their willingness to subjugate their ego and bat behind the pitcher.
“That’s one of the important parts about it,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “If there is an advantage, it probably is for the pitcher to hit eighth. But that advantage goes away if the position player you hit ninth goes in the tank on you because of that. And that’s not been the case at all. Our guys have understood we’re going this way. It’s to help the top of our lineup. It’s not an insult to anybody who’s hitting ninth behind the pitcher.”
One important note: Yesterday, in a post on Tony LaRussa’s thoughts about the Nationals’ lineup, I wrote that Riggleman and LaRussa had spoken about batting the pitcher eighth last week. That was wrong. They discussed the strategy this spring training. The mistake was made because of an unintentional misunderstanding, and it was my fault.