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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roenicke Thinking of Batting Pitcher Eighth

Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday and everyone is getting geared up for baseball. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spoke with reporters today and with the ink on Rickie Weeks' contract still drying his name inevitably came up for discussion. Of Weeks Roenicke said: "He's lead-off but he can hit anywhere. You put him in the 3rd spot last year and maybe he drives in 100 [RBI]." Roenicke mentioned he's even considering batting his pitchers eighth in the lineup to give Weeks more RBI opportunities.

Personally I'm usually against batting the pitcher eighth because I think that if a manager wants someone to set the stage for the top of the lineup he should simply bat that person lead-off and shift everyone down a spot to make sure the best hitters are getting the most at bats. In some cases it might prove a cunning strategy, but the 2011 Brewers should keep their pitchers batting ninth.

If Roenicke were to bat his pitchers eighth the first question he'd need to answer is who will then bat ninth? Of the expected starters the only decent option I see is Carlos Gomez because of his speed. If he can't improve his plate discipline that actually might be a good spot for him since we then won't have to worry about one of the Brewers' better hitters missing out on at bats by batting ninth.

Even if Gomez might be a decent option, remember that all five of the Brewers starting pitchers swing a decent bat themselves. Even newcomers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke are expected to be above average at the plate, despite spending their careers in the American League. Citing an admittedly small sample, take a look at these 2010 numbers for Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson:

Gallardo: .254 BA and .329 OBP in 72 plate appearances
Wolf: .247 BA, .253 OBP, 83 PA
Narveson: .327 BA, .365 OBP, 59 PA

With higher than average batting pitchers, there's no need to bat a position player ninth. Possessing above average batting pitchers can truly make a difference in the National League. Indeed, Roenicke said today: "It's going to keep them in the game longer," which can only be a good thing.

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