Last week the Mets decided to bat the pitcher, Zack Wheeler, in the 8th spot. This was the first game the Mets weren't using the DH, so it was the first time they had a chance to do this. Terry Collins said he would think about doing this more often. There seemed to be a lot second guessing about it on twitter. It's happening again in today's game against St. Louis. Honestly, I could care less if the Mets incorporate this tactic during the regular season. However, I don't think it is the worst thing in the world for a team who has struggled to score runs the last few seasons. He's why...
There was this guy who used to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols. Don't know if you heard of him (Sarcasm). Either way, he was the best hitter on the planet when he was in his prime for quite a few seasons. Now although you look at him, his skills and stats and would assume he would be the clean-up hitter, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa batted him third most of the time. LaRussa's reasoning was that because Pujols was his best hitter, he wanted to guarantee he got an at-bat in the first inning, to try and increase his chances of getting an early lead. He also believed that Pujols would pick up more plate appearances as the season went on. Not by a lot, but enough that he felt he was maximizing his potential. It makes a ton of sense. Now by having Pujols bat third, you maximize his at bats by a handful, however you slightly lessen his impact as a run producer. Why? Because the pitcher, which more often than not is an automatic out, would be batting 3 spots ahead of him.
To try and counter this, LaRussa started batting the pitcher 8th, in order to have 3 guys batting in front of Pujols that were capable of getting on base. Essentially this made Pujols a clean-up hitter while batting third. Pretty good tactic if you ask me. Now I'm not going to present you numbers to show how effective this was over the course of time, because I don't have them, nor do I have time to look them up. The reason I even know this about LaRussa is because I watched an interview where it came up and it stuck with me. The only thing I'll say is that the Cardinals won a hell of a lot of baseball games, Pujols put up monster numbers and the Cards have two World Series trophies to show for it. Those are all the numbers I need.
I'm not gonna sit here and compare David Wright to Pujols. But David is the Mets best hitter. Regardless, he's already slotted in the 3 hole. So is it terrible to throw a guy who isn't an automatic out like the pitcher is in the 9 hole, so that Wright (INSERT NOT CLUTCH JOKE HERE) has the opportunity to have more guys in front of him to drive in? It's worth a shot in my eyes. Of course this will be second guessed every time the pitcher is batting with 2 outs and runners on, when you could have had a position player hitting. But this strategy isn't about strengthening the bottom of the order, its about helping get more productivity from the top and middle of the line-up. By trying this, I don't think the Mets have much to lose.