Whether it’s a coincidence or cause, the Nationals have gone 4-0 since Manager Jim Riggleman began batting the pitcher eighth. There’s no one with more experience having done that than Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa, who has frequently hit a position player ninth. Today, he endorsed the Nationals’ using that strategy.
“I think it’s a good lineup,” said LaRussa, whose team has scored 18 runs in five games. “If we keep screwing around, you may see us do it when we go home.”
LaRussa said the positives of batting a position player ninth, from what he has studied, tend to outweigh the negatives. Just that one spot difference, LaRussa said, can force the manager into an earlier decision on whether to pull the starting pitcher or how to double-switch.
More often, though, LaRussa feels the pitcher batting eighth helps an offense. Riggleman said he actually consulted with LaRussa this weekend before he made the decision to try it, and his advice helped convince him.
“The pro is, you’ve got a position player hitting ninth, especially if he’s a legitimate position player, like [Ian] Desmond is,” LaRussa said. “He can get on and create some excitement with his legs. The middle of your lineup was 3-4-5. Now it’s 2-3-4. You got a better chance of getting guys on base. That’s indisputable.
“You’re going to have some times where maybe it’s the bases loaded, one out, and it’s the eighth hitter. If you count them – and we did, the first several years we did it – it’s remarkably insignificant, the number of times that comes up, during a game when you say, ‘this is a negative’ when it’s the pitcher hitting eighth instead of a player. Part of that is because after the sixth inning, you’re pinch-hitter, anyway. There’s potential any time the pitcher makes the last out as the eighth hitter, you’re leading off with Desmond instead of the pitcher. That’s a plus. Whether you score or not, it’s a plus.”